Background: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare, aggressive tumour for which an increasing incidence has been reported. A new human polyomavirus, Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV), was recently isolated from these tumours by applying digital transcriptome subtraction methodology.
Objectives: To detect the presence or absence of MCV in MCCs and other, randomly selected neoplasms.
Methods: Nine primary or recurrent MCCs from seven patients were examined; 29 other tumours (squamous cell, basal cell and basosquamous carcinomas and malignant melanomas) were examined for comparative purposes. Viral large T protein (LT1 and LT3), and viral capsid protein (VP1) were detected by primer-directed amplification, using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based method, and the amplified PCR products were analysed by agarose gel electrophoresis and subsequent sequence analysis.
Results: The presence of viral T antigen and/or viral capsid DNA sequences was demonstrated in seven of the eight MCC lesions. None of the comparative samples contained MCV DNA.
Conclusions: Our findings strongly support the hypothesis that MCV infection may well be specific for MCC, and MCV may play a role in the pathogenesis of MCC.