EBV is a paradigm for human tumor viruses because, although it infects most people benignly, it also can cause a variety of cancers. Both in vivo and in vitro, EBV infects B lymphocytes in G0, induces them to become blasts, and can maintain their proliferation in cell culture or in vivo as tumors. How EBV succeeds in these contrasting cellular environments in expressing its genes that control the host has not been explained. We have genetically dissected the EBV nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA1) gene that is required for replication of the viral genome, to elucidate its possible role in the transcription of viral genes. Strikingly, EBNA1 is essential to drive transcription of EBV's transforming genes after infection of primary B lymphocytes.