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1.  Identification and validation of a novel mature microRNA encoded by the Merkel cell polyomavirus in human Merkel cell carcinomas 
Background
Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) is present in approximately 80% of human Merkel cell carcinomas (MCCs). A previous in silico prediction suggested MCPyV encodes a microRNA (miRNA) that may regulate cellular and viral genes.
Objectives
To determine the presence and prevalence of a putative MCPyV-encoded miRNA in human MCC tumors.
Study Design
Over 30 million small RNAs from 7 cryopreserved MCC tumors and 1 perilesional sample were sequenced. 45 additional MCC tumors were examined for expression of an MCPyV-encoded mature miRNA by reverse transcription real-time PCR.
Results
An MCPyV-encoded mature miRNA, “MCV-miR-M1-5p”, was detected by direct sequencing in 2 of 3 MCPyV-positive MCC tumors. Although a precursor miRNA, MCV-miR-M1, had been predicted in silico and studied in vitro by Seo et al., no MCPyV-encoded miRNAs have been directly detected in human tissues. Importantly, the mature sequence of MCV-miR-M1 found in vivo was identical in all 79 reads obtained but differed from the in silico predicted mature miRNA by a 2-nucleotide shift, resulting in a distinct seed region and a different set of predicted target genes. This mature miRNA was detected by real-time PCR in 50% of MCPyV-positive MCCs (n=38) and in 0% of MCPyV-negative MCCs (n=13).
Conclusions
MCV-miR-M1-5p is expressed at low levels in 50% of MCPyV-positive MCCs. This virus-encoded miRNA is predicted to target genes that may play a role in promoting immune evasion and regulating viral DNA replication.
doi:10.1016/j.jcv.2011.08.012
PMCID: PMC3196837  PMID: 21907614
MCV-miR-M1; Merkel cell polyomavirus; Merkel cell carcinoma; microRNA
2.  Melanocortin MC1 receptor in human genetics and model systems 
European journal of pharmacology  2011;660(1):103-110.
The melanocortin MC1 receptor is a G -protein coupled receptor expressed in melanocytes of the skin and hair and is known for its key role in regulation of human pigmentation. Melanocortin MC1 receptor activation after ultraviolet radiation exposure results in a switch from the red/yellow pheomelanin to the brown/black eumelanin pigment synthesis within cutaneous melanocytes; this pigment is then transferred to the surrounding keratinocytes of the skin. The increase in melanin maturation and uptake results in tanning of the skin, providing a physical protection of skin cells from ultraviolet radiation induced DNA damage. Melanocortin MC 1 receptor polymorphism is widespread within the Caucasian population and some variant alleles are associated with red hair colour, fair skin, poor tanning and increased risk of skin cancer. Here we will discuss the use of mouse coat colour models, human genetic association studies, and in vitro cell culture studies to determine the complex functions of the melanocortin MC1 receptor and the molecular mechanisms underlying the association between melanocortin MC1 receptor variant alleles and the red hair colour phenotype. Recent research indicates that melanocortin MC1 receptor has many non-pigmentary functions, and that the increased risk of skin cancer conferred by melanocortin MC1 receptor variant alleles is to some extent independent of pigmentation phenotypes. The use of new transgenic mouse models, the study of novel melanocortin MC1 receptor response genes and the use of more advanced human skin models such as 3D skin reconstruction may provide key elements in understanding the pharmacogenetics of human melanocortin MC1 receptor polymorphism .
doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2010.11.040
PMCID: PMC3095693  PMID: 21199646
melanocortin 1 receptor; melanoma; red hair colour; melanocyte; tanning; pigmentation
3.  Transcriptome-Wide Studies of Merkel Cell Carcinoma and Validation of Intratumoral CD8+ Lymphocyte Invasion As an Independent Predictor of Survival 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2011;29(12):1539-1546.
Purpose
Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a polyomavirus-associated skin cancer that is frequently lethal and lacks established prognostic biomarkers. This study sought to identify biomarkers that improve prognostic accuracy and provide insight into MCC biology.
Patients and Methods
Gene expression profiles of 35 MCC tumors were clustered based on prognosis. The cluster of genes overexpressed in good-prognosis tumors was tested for biologic process enrichment. Relevant mRNA expression differences were confirmed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry. An independent set of 146 nonoverlapping MCC tumors (median follow-up, 25 months among 116 living patients) was employed for biomarker validation. Univariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses were performed.
Results
Immune response gene signatures were prominent in patients with good prognoses. In particular, genes associated with cytotoxic CD8+ lymphocytes were overexpressed in tumors from patients with favorable prognoses. In the independent validation set, cases with robust intratumoral CD8+ lymphocyte infiltration had improved outcomes (100% MCC-specific survival, n = 26) compared with instances characterized by sparse infiltration (60% survival, n = 120). Only stage and intratumoral CD8 infiltration (but not age, sex, or CD8+ lymphocytes localized to the tumor-stroma interface) were significant in both univariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses. Notably, traditional histologic identification of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes was not a significant independent predictor of survival.
Conclusion
Intratumoral CD8+ lymphocyte infiltration can be readily assessed on paraffin-embedded tissue, is independently associated with improved MCC-specific survival, and therefore, may provide prognostic information that enhances established MCC staging protocols.
doi:10.1200/JCO.2010.30.6308
PMCID: PMC3082974  PMID: 21422430
4.  Array-CGH reveals recurrent genomic changes in Merkel cell carcinoma including amplification of L-Myc 
Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive neuroendocrine skin cancer with poorly characterized genetics. We performed high-resolution comparative genomic hybridization on 25 MCC specimens using a high-density oligonucleotide microarray. Tumors frequently carried extra copies of chromosomes 1, 3q, 5p, and 6 and lost chromosomes 3p, 4, 5q, 7, 10 and 13. MCC tumors with less genomic aberration were associated with improved survival (p=0.04). Tumors from 13 of 22 MCC patients had detectable Merkel cell polyomavirus DNA, and these tumors had fewer genomic deletions. Three regions of genomic alteration were of particular interest: a deletion of 5q12-21 occurred in 26% of tumors, a deletion of 13q14-21 was recurrent in 26% of tumors and contains the well-characterized tumor suppressor RB1, and a novel focal amplification at 1p34 was present in 39% of tumors and centers on L-Myc (MYCL1). L-Myc is related to the c-Myc proto-oncogene, has transforming activity, and is amplified in the closely related small cell lung cancer. Normal skin showed no L-Myc expression, while 4/4 MCC specimens tested expressed L-Myc RNA in relative proportion to the DNA copy number gain. These findings suggest several genes that may contribute to MCC pathogenesis, most notably L-Myc.
doi:10.1038/jid.2008.365
PMCID: PMC2830552  PMID: 19020549
Merkel cell carcinoma; comparative genomic hybridization; L-Myc; Merkel cell polyomavirus; genetics

Results 1-5 (5)