Detection of Merkel cell polyomavirus DNA in Merkel cell carcinomas

Br J Dermatol. 2009 Oct;161(4):930-2. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2009.09221.x. Epub 2009 May 12.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antigens, Viral, Tumor / genetics*
  • Antigens, Viral, Tumor / isolation & purification
  • Capsid Proteins / genetics*
  • Capsid Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / virology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polyomaviridae / genetics*
  • Polyomaviridae / immunology
  • Polyomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Polyomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / virology*


  • Antigens, Viral, Tumor
  • Capsid Proteins