Detection of Merkel cell polyomavirus in the human tissues from 41 Japanese autopsy cases using polymerase chain reaction

Intervirology. 2013;56(1):1-5. doi: 10.1159/000338620. Epub 2012 Sep 12.


It has recently been shown that approximately 80% of Merkel cell carcinomas harbor a novel polyomavirus named Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). MCPyV has been detected in human tissue samples. However, detailed distribution of MCPyV in non-neoplastic Japanese human tissues remains unclear. To address this, we used single or real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for 41 autopsy cases. PCR revealed MCPyV-DNA in non-neoplastic samples: total, 29/41 (71%); adult, 29/39 (74%); fetus or infant, 0/2; men, 24/28 (86%); women, 5/13 (38%); total human tissues, 66/572 (12%); skin, 8/15 (53%); adrenal gland, 9/33 (27%), and other 16 organs (4-25%). This study first reported the presence of MCPyV-DNA in non-neoplastic tissues of thyroid gland, adrenal gland, spleen, bone marrow, stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, heart, and aorta. PCR revealed that viral load ranged from 0.00026 to 0.22 in all MCPyV-positive tissues compared with Merkel cell carcinoma samples. These detailed PCR data showed higher prevalence of MCPyV infection in Japanese men than women (p = 0.004) and broad distribution of MCPyV with low viral load in more non-neoplastic human tissues than in the previous reports. These data provide valuable insights for further studies of MCPyV infection and MCPyV-related diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / virology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus / genetics
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / virology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polyomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Polyomavirus Infections / pathology
  • Polyomavirus Infections / virology
  • Sex Factors
  • Viral Load