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, 2012, 680410

Which Are the Cells of Origin in Merkel Cell Carcinoma?


Which Are the Cells of Origin in Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

Thomas Tilling et al. J Skin Cancer.


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a highly aggressive skin tumour with increasing incidence, is associated with the newly discovered Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). Studies on MCC and MCPyV as well as other risk factors have significantly increased our knowledge of MCC pathogenesis, but the cells of origin, which could be important targets in future therapies, are still unknown. Merkel cells (MCs), the neuroendocrine cells of the skin, were believed to be at the origin of MCC due to their phenotypic similarities. However, for several reasons, for example, heterogeneous differentiation of MCCs and postmitotic character of MCs, it is not very likely that MCC develops from differentiated MCs. Skin stem cells, probably from the epidermal lineage, are more likely to be cells of origin in MCC. Future studies will have to address these questions more directly in order to identify the physiological cells which are transformed to MCC cells.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Scheme of potential cells of origin of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), shown from an ontogenetic perspective. All arrows with a scattered  line represent thus far hypothetic lineage relationships. However, whereas MCC derivation from Merkel cells is not very likely, there are hints implying epidermal stem cells in MCC genesis, and dermal stem cells as well as SKPs at least cannot be excluded as cells of origin for MCC. For each putative cell type of origin, an involvement of MCPyV in MCC genesis is highly probable, at least in a large fraction of MCCs.

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