The intrinsic properties of different viruses have driven their study. For example, the capacity for efficient productive infection of cultured cells by herpes simplex virus 1 has made it a paradigm for this mode of infection for herpesviruses in general. Epstein-Barr virus, another herpesvirus, has two properties that have driven its study: It causes human cancers, and it exhibits a tractable transition from its latent to its productive cycle in cell culture. Here, we review our understanding of the path Epstein-Barr virus follows to move from a latent infection to and through its productive cycle. We use information from human infections to provide a framework for describing studies in cell culture and, where possible, the molecular resolutions from these studies. We also pose questions whose answers we think are pivotal to understanding this path, and we provide answers where we can.


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