A classification scheme for human polyomavirus JCV variants based on the nucleotide sequence of the noncoding regulatory region

J Neurovirol. 2001 Aug;7(4):280-7. doi: 10.1080/13550280152537102.


The human polyomavirus JCV is responsible for the central nervous system (CNS) demyelination observed in cases of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Lytic infection of oligodendrocytes, the cells that constitute the basis of myelin in the CNS, is established by JCV in conjunction with immunosuppressive conditions. Beyond this, however, many questions related to JCV pathogenesis remain unanswered. The JCV regulatory region is a hypervariable noncoding sequence positioned between the early and late protein-coding regions. The particular nucleotide sequence of a JCV regulatory region affects levels of viral transcription and replication. Modifications to this promoter/enhancer structure can alter the cellular host range and may be responsible for switching JCV between states of lytic and latent infection. The regulatory region structure has, therefore, been used to distinguish JCV variants. Nucleotide sequencing studies have uncovered numerous variations of regulatory region structure. Until now, however, no inclusive nomenclature existed that linked variants by regulatory region structure and/or activity. We have arranged all known variant JCV regulatory regions into quadrants according to the integration of particular sequence sections and repetition of sequence section groups. This arrangement of regulatory regions results in an updated nomenclature that is well-suited for describing the relationships between JCV variants. Four distinct structural forms (I-S, I-R, II-S, and II-R) are defined along with tissue tropisms. This design provides logical connections between the variant regulatory regions and may be useful for elucidating crucial steps in JCV pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Humans
  • JC Virus / classification*
  • JC Virus / genetics*
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / virology
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics*


  • DNA, Viral