Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a deadly skin cancer, and about 80% of its cases have been shown to harbor integrated Merkel polyomavirus in the tumor cell genome. Viral oncoproteins expressed in the tumor cells are considered as the oncogenic factors of these virus-positive Merkel cell carcinoma (VP-MCC). In contrast, the molecular pathogenesis of virus-negative MCC (VN-MCC) is less well understood. Using gene expression analysis of MCC cell lines, we found histone methyltransferase PRDM8 to be elevated in VN-MCC. This finding was confirmed by immunohistochemical analysis of MCC tumors, revealing that increased PRDM8 expression in VN-MCC is also associated with increased H3K9 methylation. CRISPR-mediated silencing of PRDM8 in MCC cells further supported the histone methylating role of this protein in VN-MCC. We also identified miR-20a-5p as a negative regulator of PRDM8. Taken together, our findings provide insights into the role of PRDM8 as a histone methyltransferase in VN-MCC tumorigenesis.
Keywords: EGR1; MCPyV; MCV-negative; Merkel cell carcinoma; chromatin regulator; histone; histone methyltransferase PRDM8; miRNA.