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Detection of Merkel cell polyomavirus in cervical squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas from Japanese patients

Masayuki Imajoh1, Yumiko Hashida1, Yuiko Nemoto1, Hiroyoshi Oguri2, Nagamasa Maeda2, Mutsuo Furihata3, Takao Fukaya2 and Masanori Daibata1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology and Infection, Kochi Medical School, Kochi University, Nankoku, Kochi, 783-8505, Japan

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Kochi Medical School, Kochi University, Nankoku, Kochi, 783-8505, Japan

3 Department of Pathology, Kochi Medical School, Kochi University, Nankoku, Kochi, 783-8505, Japan

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Virology Journal 2012, 9:154  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-9-154

Published: 9 August 2012



Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) was identified originally in Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a rare form of human skin neuroendocrine carcinoma. Evidence of MCPyV existence in other forms of malignancy such as cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) is growing. Cervical cancers became the focus of our interest in searching for potentially MCPyV-related tumors because: (i) the major histological type of cervical cancer is the SCC; (ii) the uterine cervix is a common site of neuroendocrine carcinomas histologically similar to MCCs; and (iii) MCPyV might be transmitted during sexual interaction as demonstrated for human papillomavirus (HPV). In this study, we aimed to clarify the possible presence of MCPyV in cervical SCCs from Japanese patients. Cervical adenocarcinomas (ACs) were also studied.


Formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue samples from 48 cervical SCCs and 16 cervical ACs were examined for the presence of the MCPyV genome by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and sequencing analyses. PCR analysis revealed that 9/48 cervical SCCs (19%) and 4/16 cervical ACs (25%) were positive for MCPyV DNA. MCPyV-specific PCR products were sequenced to compare them with reference sequences. The nucleotide sequences in the MCPyV large T (LT)-sequenced region were the same among MCPyV-positive cervical SCCs and AC. Conversely, in the MCPyV viral protein 1 (VP1)-sequenced region, two cervical SCCs and three cervical ACs showed several nucleotide substitutions, of which three caused amino acid substitutions. These sequencing results suggested that three MCPyV variants of the VP1 were identified in our cases. Immunohistochemistry showed that the LT antigen was expressed in tumor cells in MCPyV-positive samples. Genotyping of human HPV in the MCPyV-positive samples revealed that infected HPVs were HPV types 16, 31 and 58 for SCCs and HPV types 16 and 18 for ACs.


This study provides the first observation that MCPyV coexists in a subset of HPV-associated cervical cancers from Japanese patients. The prevalence of MCPyV in these lesions was close to that observed in the cutaneous SCCs. Further worldwide epidemiological surveys are warranted to determine the possible association of MCPyV with pathogenesis of cervical cancers.

Merkel cell polyomavirus; Cervical squamous cell carcinoma; Cervical adenocarcinoma; HPV typing