Human neurotropic polyomavirus, JCV, and its role in carcinogenesis

Oncogene. 2003 Aug 11;22(33):5181-91. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1206559.


A number of recent studies have reported the detection of the ubiquitous human polyomavirus, JC virus (JCV), in samples derived from several types of neural as well as non-neural human tumors. The human neurotropic JCV was first identified as the etiologic agent of the fatal demyelinating disease, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, which usually occurs in individuals with defects in cell-mediated immunity, including AIDS. However, upon mounting evidence of the oncogenic potential of the viral regulatory protein, T-antigen, and JCV's oncogenecity in a broad range of animal models, studies were initiated to determine its potential involvement in human carcinogenesis. Initially, the most frequently observed tumors in rodent models, including medulloblastoma, astrocytoma, glioblastoma, and other neural-origin tumors were analysed. These studies were followed by analysis of non-neural tumors such as colorectal carcinomas. In a subset of each tumor type examined, JC viral genomic DNA sequences could be detected by PCR and confirmed by Southern blot hybridization or direct sequencing. In a smaller subset of the tumors, the expression of T-antigen was observed by immunohistochemical analysis. Owing to the established functions of T-antigen including its ability to interact with tumor suppressor proteins such as Rb and p53, and its ability to influence chromosomal stability, potential mechanisms of JCV T-antigen-mediated cellular dysregulation are discussed. Further, as increasing evidence suggests that T-antigen is not required for maintenance of a transformed phenotype, a hit-and-run model for T-antigen-induced transformation is proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Antigens, Viral / metabolism
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Brain Neoplasms / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • JC Virus / pathogenicity*
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / virology
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / virology*
  • Phenotype
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53