Comparative In Vitro and In Vivo Studies on Feline, Canine, and Human Merkel Cell Carcinoma

December 7, 2020


Veterinary Pathology

Publication Date

December 7, 2020


Soma Ito, James K Chambers, Chikako Mori, Ayumi Sumi, Tetsuo Omachi, Hiroyuki Nakayama, Kazuyuki Uchida Summary

Cats and dogs can get MCC as well as humans! But their MCCs are not caused by the Merkel polyomavirus.


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive cutaneous neuroendocrine tumor, and most human MCC cases are infected by Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). However, the underlying pathogeneses of MCC in animals remain unclear. In the present study, newly established cell lines from feline and canine MCC, a MCPyV-positive human MCC cell line, and MCC tissues from 25 cats and 1 dog were examined and compared pathologically. Feline and canine MCCs were composed of tumor cells arranged in trabeculae and solid packets. Twenty out of 25 feline MCC cases (80%) had other proliferative cutaneous lesions, such as carcinoma in situ and squamous cell carcinoma. Among the 25 feline MCC cases, tumor cells were immunopositive for cytokeratins (CKs), including CK5/6 (4/25 cases, 16%), CK7 (5, 20%), CK18 (25, 100%), CK19 (20, 80%), and CK20 (20, 80%). The tumor cells of feline MCC were also immunopositive for synaptophysin (24/25, 96%) and CD56 (22/25, 88%). The tumor cells of canine MCC were immunopositive for CK18, CK19, CK20, and synaptophysin. Cultured feline and canine MCC cells grew in adherent monolayers and exhibited diffuse cytoplasmic immunoreactivity for CKs, whereas human MCC cells grew in suspension and exhibited dot-like cytoplasmic immunoreactivity for CKs. Differences in the distribution of CKs between human and animal MCC may be attributed to cell adhesion propensities. MCPyV genes and antigen were not detected in feline or canine MCC, suggesting a different etiology from human MCC.

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