Background & aims: JC virus (JCV), a human polyomavirus, has been found in a limited number of normal human tissues and cancers. The oncogenic potential of this virus is mediated by a transforming protein, the T antigen (TAg). We have previously demonstrated the presence of JCV-TAg in colorectal cancers, in adjacent normal colonic mucosa from these patients, and in the human colon cancer cell line SW480. The mode of transmission of this virus is unclear, and we hypothesized that the gastrointestinal (GI) tract may be a reservoir for the virus.
Methods: DNA was extracted from 129 normal GI tissue samples collected from 33 patients. Topoisomerase I-assisted polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to detect the virus using exact and degenerate primers. Nested PCR and Southern blot analysis confirmed the identity of the PCR products. Single-stranded conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis and sequencing were used to evaluate the presence of viral quasispecies.
Results: JCV sequences were found in 75.8% of patients (70.6% of upper GI and 81.2% of colonic samples); no significant differences in rates of infection were found by site. The use of degenerate primers combined with topoisomerase I treatment led to viral detection in 58.9% of samples, compared with 27.9% of samples using exact primers and topoisomerase I (P < 0.01). SSCP and sequencing analysis confirmed the amplification of viral quasispecies and the authenticity of TAg sequences.
Conclusions: The results show that JCV DNA sequences are highly prevalent in the human upper and lower gastrointestinal tract of immunocompetent individuals.