Detection of polyoma virus in brain tissue of patients with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy by real-time PCR and pyrosequencing

Diagn Mol Pathol. 2004 Mar;13(1):15-21. doi: 10.1097/00019606-200403000-00003.


We evaluated 2 methods, a LightCycler PCR assay and pyrosequencing for the detection of the JC polyoma virus (JCV) in fixed brain tissue of 10 patients with and 3 control patients without progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Nucleic acid extraction was performed after deparaffinization and proteinase K digestion. The LightCycler assay differentiates the BK virus (BKV), JCV, and SV40 using melt curve analysis. Conventional PCR was used with the same primers to generate products for pyrosequencing. Two sequencing primers were used that differentiate the polyoma viruses. Seven of 11 biopsies (1 patient had 2 biopsies) with PML were positive for JCV by real-time PCR and/or PCR/pyrosequencing. Three of 4 remaining biopsies were positive by real-time PCR but had melting points between JCV and SV40. The 4 specimens that were negative or atypical by LightCycler PCR were positive by traditional PCR, but 1 had an amplicon of lower molecular weight by gel electrophoresis. These were shown to represent JCV by at least 1 of the 2 pyrosequencing primers. The biopsies from patients without PML were PCR negative. Both the LightCycler and pyrosequencing assays are useful for confirming JCV in brain biopsies from patients with PML, but variant JCVs may require supplementary methods to confirm JCV infection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • BK Virus / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / virology*
  • Humans
  • JC Virus / genetics
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / diagnosis*
  • Leukoencephalopathy, Progressive Multifocal / pathology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Polyomavirus / genetics
  • Polyomavirus / isolation & purification*
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods*


  • RNA, Viral