Does a new polyomavirus contribute to Merkel cell carcinoma?
ABSTRACT: A new technique designed to hunt for non-human transcripts has identified a novel SV40-like virus present in the majority of Merkel cell carcinomas. Here we examine what it will take to determine whether or not this virus contributes to carcinogenesis.
Project description:Viruses are the cause of approximately 15% of all human cancers. Both RNA and DNA human tumor viruses have been identified, with Merkel cell polyomavirus being the most recent one to be linked to cancer. This virus is associated with about 80% of Merkel cell carcinomas, a rare, but aggressive cutaneous malignancy. Despite its name, the cells of origin of this tumor may not be Merkel cells. This review provides an update on the structure and life cycle, cell tropism and epidemiology of the virus and its oncogenic properties. Putative strategies to prevent viral infection or treat virus-positive Merkel cell carcinoma patients are discussed.
Project description:Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) is a virus discovered in our laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh that is monoclonally integrated into the genome of approximately 80% of human Merkel cell carcinomas (MCCs). Transcript mapping was performed to show that MCV expresses transcripts in MCCs similar to large T (LT), small T (ST), and 17kT transcripts of SV40. Nine MCC tumor-derived LT genomic sequences have been examined, and all were found to harbor mutations prematurely truncating the MCV LT helicase. In contrast, four presumed episomal viruses from nontumor sources did not possess this T antigen signature mutation. Using coimmunoprecipitation and origin replication assays, we show that tumor-derived virus mutations do not affect retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein (Rb) binding by LT but do eliminate viral DNA replication capacity. Identification of an MCC cell line (MKL-1) having monoclonal MCV integration and the signature LT mutation allowed us to functionally test both tumor-derived and wild type (WT) T antigens. Only WT LT expression activates replication of integrated MCV DNA in MKL-1 cells. Our findings suggest that MCV-positive MCC tumor cells undergo selection for LT mutations to prevent autoactivation of integrated virus replication that would be detrimental to cell survival. Because these mutations render the virus replication-incompetent, MCV is not a "passenger virus" that secondarily infects MCC tumors.
Project description:Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) is the only known human oncogenic virus in the polyomaviridae family and the etiological agent of most Merkel cell carcinomas (MCC). MCC is an aggressive and highly metastatic skin cancer with a propensity for recurrence and poor prognosis. Large tumor antigen (LT), is an essential oncoprotein for MCV transcription, viral replication, and cancer cell proliferation. MCV LT is a short-lived protein that encodes a unique domain: MCV LT unique regions (MURs). These domains consist of phosphorylation sites that interact with multiple E3 ligases, thus limiting LT expression and consequently, viral replication. In this study, we show that MURs are necessary for regulating LT stability via multiple E3 ligase interactions, resulting in cell growth arrest. While expression of wild-type MCV LT induced a decrease in cellular proliferation, deletion of the MUR domains resulted in increased LT stability and cell proliferation. Conversely, addition of MURs to SV40 LT propagated E3 ligase interactions, which in turn, reduced SV40 LT stability and decreased cell growth activity. Our results demonstrate that compared to other human polyomaviruses (HPyVs), MCV LT has evolved to acquire the MUR domains that are essential for MCV LT autoregulation, potentially leading to viral latency and MCC.
Project description:Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare, lethal cancer histopathologically composed of cells showing similarity with mechanoreceptor Merkel cells. Merkel cell tumors manifest in two distinct forms. While a virus called Merkel cell polyomavirus is involved in the pathogenesis of one form of Merkel tumors, the other is driven by ultraviolet (UV)-linked mutations. In this study we investigated 18 cases, from the Indian population, of Merkel cell carcinoma for immunohistochemical (IHC) expression of Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) T antigen, including 12 cases tested by PCR, to identify viral etiopathology. We tested the tumors with two sensitive antibodies (CM2B4 and Ab3), targeting the viral large T antigen protein and with PCR primers targeting the N terminus of T antigen. Overall, we observed 38.8% (7/18) tumors displaying positive IHC expression of Merkel cell polyomavirus T antigen and 25% (3/12) tumors showing positive results, by both, immunohistochemistry and PCR. This constitutes the first report from India showing implication of MCV in Merkel cell carcinomas. Moreover, this is one of the larger series of Merkel cell carcinomas, tested for MCV, by both immunohistochemistry and PCR, in this part of the world. These results further indicate that a slightly more number of such cases in India are likely to be caused by UV-linked damage, as opposed to Merkel cell polyomavirus mediated tumorigenesis, which is definitely implicated in a subset of cases.
Project description:We investigated whether Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) patients in France carry Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) and then identified strain variations. All frozen MCC specimens and 45% of formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded specimens, but none of the non-MCC neuroendocrine carcinomas specimens, had MCPyV. Strains from France and the United States were similar.
Project description:Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) is a recently discovered virus that causes 80% of Merkel cell carcinomas. We examined data for 564 gay/bisexual male participants >18 years of age in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and found that 447 (79.3%) were MCV-antibody positive at initial enrollment. Of the 117 MCV-seronegative men, 31 subsequently seroconverted over a 4-year follow-up period, corresponding to a 6.6% annual conversion rate. MCV immunoglobulin G levels remained detectable up to 25 years after exposure. No signs, symptoms, or routine diagnostic test results were associated with MCV infection, and no correlation between HIV infection or AIDS progression and MCV infection was noted. An initial correlation between chronic hepatitis B virus infection and MCV prevalence could not be confirmed among MCV seroconverters or in studies of a second hepatitis B virus-hyperendemic cohort from Qidong, China. In adults, MCV is typically an asymptomatic, common, and commensal viral infection that initiates rare cancers after virus (rather than host cell) mutations.
Project description:Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) is a newly discovered human cancer virus encoding a small T (sT) oncoprotein. We performed MCV sT FLAG-affinity purification followed by mass spectroscopy (MS) analysis, which identified several protein phosphatases (PP), including PP2A A and C subunits and PP4C, as potential cellular interacting proteins. PP2A targeting is critical for the transforming properties of nonhuman polyomaviruses, such as simian virus 40 (SV40), but is not required for MCV sT-induced rodent cell transformation. We compared similarities and differences in PP2A binding between MCV and SV40 sT. While SV40 sT coimmunopurified with subunits PP2A A? and PP2A C, MCV sT coimmunopurified with PP2A A?, PP2A A?, and PP2A C. Scanning alanine mutagenesis at 29 sites across the MCV sT protein revealed that PP2A-binding domains lie on the opposite molecular surface from a previously described large T stabilization domain (LSD) loop that binds E3 ligases, such as Fbw7. MCV sT-PP2A interactions can be functionally distinguished by mutagenesis from MCV sT LSD-dependent 4E-BP1 hyperphosphorylation and viral DNA replication enhancement. MCV sT has a restricted range for PP2A B subunit substitution, inhibiting only the assembly of B56? into the phosphatase holoenzyme. In contrast, SV40 sT inhibits the assembly of B55?, B56? and B56? into PP2A. We conclude that MCV sT is required for Merkel cell carcinoma growth, but its in vitro transforming activity depends on LSD interactions rather than PP2A targeting.Merkel cell polyomavirus is a newly discovered human cancer virus that promotes cancer, in part, through expression of its small T (sT) oncoprotein. Animal polyomavirus sT oncoproteins have been found to cause experimental tumors by blocking the activities of a group of phosphatases called protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A). Our structural analysis reveals that MCV sT also displaces the B subunit of PP2A to inhibit PP2A activity. MCV sT, however, only displaces a restricted subset of PP2A B subunits, which is insufficient to cause tumor cell formation in vitro. MCV sT instead transforms tumor cells through another region called the large T stabilization domain. The PP2A targeting and transforming activities lie on opposite faces of the MCV sT molecule and can be genetically separated from each other.
Project description:Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) causes the majority of human Merkel cell carcinomas (MCC) and encodes a small T (sT) antigen that transforms immortalized rodent fibroblasts in vitro. To develop a mouse model for MCV sT-induced carcinogenesis, we generated transgenic mice with a flox-stop-flox MCV sT sequence homologously recombined at the ROSA locus (ROSAsT), allowing Cre-mediated, conditional MCV sT expression. Standard tamoxifen (TMX) administration to adult UbcCreERT2; ROSAsT mice, in which Cre is ubiquitously expressed, resulted in MCV sT expression in multiple organs that was uniformly lethal within 5 days. Conversely, most adult UbcCreERT2; ROSAsT mice survived low-dose tamoxifen administration but developed ear lobe dermal hyperkeratosis and hypergranulosis. Simultaneous MCV sT expression and conditional homozygous p53 deletion generated multi-focal, poorly-differentiated, highly anaplastic tumors in the spleens and livers of mice after 60 days of TMX treatment. Mouse embryonic fibroblasts from these mice induced to express MCV sT exhibited anchorage-independent cell growth. To examine Merkel cell pathology, MCV sT expression was also induced during mid-embryogenesis in Merkel cells of Atoh1CreERT2/+; ROSAsT mice, which lead to significantly increased Merkel cell numbers in touch domes at late embryonic ages that normalized postnatally. Tamoxifen administration to adult Atoh1CreERT2/+; ROSAsT and Atoh1CreERT2/+; ROSAsT; p53flox/flox mice had no effects on Merkel cell numbers and did not induce tumor formation. Taken together, these results show that MCV sT stimulates progenitor Merkel cell proliferation in embryonic mice and is a bona fide viral oncoprotein that induces full cancer cell transformation in the p53-null setting.
Project description:The double-stranded DNA polyomavirus Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) causes Merkel cell carcinoma, an aggressive but rare human skin cancer that most often affects immunosuppressed and elderly persons. As in other polyomaviruses, the large T-antigen of MCV recognizes the viral origin of replication by binding repeating G(A/G)GGC pentamers. The spacing, number, orientation, and necessity of repeats for viral replication differ, however, from other family members such as SV40 and murine polyomavirus. We report here the 2.9 Å crystal structure of the MCV large T-antigen origin binding domain (OBD) in complex with a DNA fragment from the MCV origin of replication. Consistent with replication data showing that three of the G(A/G)GGC-like binding sites near the center of the origin are required for replication, the crystal structure contains three copies of the OBD. This stoichiometry was verified using isothermal titration calorimetry. The affinity for G(A/G)GGC-containing double-stranded DNA was found to be ~740 nM, approximately 8-fold weaker than the equivalent domain in SV40 for the analogous region of the SV40 origin. The difference in affinity is partially attributable to DNA-binding residue Lys331 (Arg154 in SV40). In contrast to SV40, a small protein-protein interface is observed between MCV OBDs when bound to the central region of the origin. This protein-protein interface is reminiscent of that seen in bovine papilloma virus E1 protein. Mutational analysis indicates, however, that this interface contributes little to DNA binding energy.
Project description:Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) is the recently discovered cause of most Merkel cell carcinomas (MCCs), an aggressive form of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Although MCV is known to integrate into the tumor cell genome and to undergo mutation, the molecular mechanisms used by this virus to cause cancer are unknown. Here, we show that MCV small T (sT) antigen is expressed in most MCC tumors, where it is required for tumor cell growth. Unlike the closely related SV40 sT, MCV sT transformed rodent fibroblasts to anchorage- and contact-independent growth and promoted serum-free proliferation of human cells. These effects did not involve protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) inhibition. MCV sT was found to act downstream in the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway to preserve eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E-binding protein 1 (4E-BP1) hyperphosphorylation, resulting in dysregulated cap-dependent translation. MCV sT-associated 4E-BP1 serine 65 hyperphosphorylation was resistant to mTOR complex (mTORC1) and mTORC2 inhibitors. Steady-state phosphorylation of other downstream Akt-mTOR targets, including S6K and 4E-BP2, was also increased by MCV sT. Expression of a constitutively active 4E-BP1 that could not be phosphorylated antagonized the cell transformation activity of MCV sT. Taken together, these experiments showed that 4E-BP1 inhibition is required for MCV transformation. Thus, MCV sT is an oncoprotein, and its effects on dysregulated cap-dependent translation have clinical implications for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of MCV-related cancers.