Department of Pathology, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, 1-23-1 Toyama, Shinjuku, Tokyo 162-8640, Japan.
Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare malignancy that sometimes occurs in the skin of elderly people. Recently, a new human polyomavirus, Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) was identified in Merkel cell carcinoma. In the present study, MCPyV-DNA was detected in 6 of 11 (55%) cases of Merkel cell carcinoma by nested PCR and real-time PCR. Histologically, MCPyV-positive cases showed round and vesicular nuclei with a fine granular chromatin and small nucleoli, whereas MCPyV-negative cases showed polygonal nuclei with diffusely distributed chromatin. Real-time PCR analysis to detect the MCPyV gene revealed that viral copy numbers ranged 0.04-0.43 per cell in cases of Merkel cell carcinoma. MCPyV was also detected in 3 of 49 (6.1%) cases of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), but not in 192 DNA samples of other diseases including 142 autopsy samples from 20 immunodeficient patients. The MCPyV copy number in KS was lower than that in Merkel cell carcinoma. PCR successfully amplified a full-length MCPyV genome from a case of KS. Sequence analysis revealed that the MCPyV isolated from KS had 98% homology to the previously reported MCPyV genomes. These data suggest that the prevalence of MCPyV is low in Japan, and is at least partly associated with the pathogenesis of Merkel cell carcinoma.