Merkel Cell Polyomavirus: A New DNA Virus Associated with Human Cancer

  • Margo MacDonald
  • Jianxin YouEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1018)


Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV or MCV) is a novel human polyomavirus that has been discovered in Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a highly aggressive skin cancer. MCPyV infection is widespread in the general population. MCPyV-associated MCC is one of the most aggressive skin cancers, killing more patients than other well-known cancers such as cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Currently, however, there is no effective drug for curing this cancer. The incidence of MCC has tripled over the past two decades. With the widespread infection of MCPyV and the increase in MCC diagnoses, it is critical to better understand the biology of MCPyV and its oncogenic potential. In this chapter, we summarize recent discoveries regarding MCPyV molecular virology, host cellular tropism, mechanisms of MCPyV oncoprotein-mediated oncogenesis, and current therapeutic strategies for MCPyV-associated MCC. We also present epidemiological evidence for MCPyV infection in HIV patients and links between MCPyV and non-MCC human cancers.


Merkel cell polyomavirus Merkel cell carcinoma Oncogenesis HIV patients Host cellular tropism 



The authors would like to thank the members of our laboratory for helpful discussion and Dr. Wei Liu for helping with figure preparation. This work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grants R01CA148768, R01CA142723, and R01CA187718. Margo MacDonald is a Vagelos scholar in the Molecular Life Sciences and is supported by a Vagelos MLS summer stipend.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Microbiology, Perelman School of MedicineUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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