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.