Human polyomavirus JC variants in Papua New Guinea and Guam reflect ancient population settlement and viral evolution

Microbes Infect. 2000 Jul;2(9):987-96. doi: 10.1016/s1286-4579(00)01252-1.


The peopling of the Pacific was a complex sequence of events that is best reconstructed by reconciling insights from various disciplines. Here we analyze the human polyomavirus JC (JCV) in Highlanders of Papua New Guinea (PNG), in Austronesian-speaking Tolai people on the island of New Britain, and in nearby non-Austronesian-speaking Baining people. We also characterize JCV from the Chamorro of Guam, a Micronesian population. All JCV strains from PNG and Guam fall within the broad Asian group previously defined in the VP1 gene as Type 2 or Type 7, but the PNG strains were distinct from both genotypes. Among the Chamorro JCV samples, 8 strains (Guam-1) were like the Type 7 strains found in Southeast Asia, while nine strains (Guam-2) were distinct from both the mainland strains and most PNG strains. We identified three JCV variants within Papua New Guinea (PNG-1, PNG-2 and PNG-3), but none of the Southeast Asian (Type 7) strains. PNG-1 strains were present in all three populations (Highlanders and the Baining and Tolai of New Britain), but PNG-2 strains were restricted to the Highlanders. Their relative lack of DNA sequence variation suggests that they arose comparatively recently. The single PNG-3 strain, identified in an Austronesian-speaking Tolai individual, was closely related to the Chamorro variants (Guam-2), consistent with a common Austronesian ancestor. In PNG-2 variants a complex regulatory region mutation inserts a duplication into a nearby deletion, a change reminiscent of those seen in the brains of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy patients. This is the first instance of a complex JCV rearrangement circulating in a human population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Base Sequence
  • Capsid / genetics*
  • Capsid / urine
  • Capsid Proteins*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Deletion
  • Genes, Duplicate
  • Genome, Viral*
  • Genotype
  • Guam
  • Humans
  • JC Virus / chemistry
  • JC Virus / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • New Guinea
  • Population Dynamics
  • Replication Origin


  • Capsid Proteins
  • VP1 protein, polyomavirus