Current In Vitro and In Vivo Models to Study MCPyV-Associated MCC

October 7, 2022



Publication Date

October 7, 2022


Loke ASW, Lambert PF, Spurgeon ME

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This review discusses an ever-expanding set of options to study MCC using cells and mouse models. These tools are increasingly important as the number of candidate therapies for MCC is expanding and the field needs to prioritize which ones to take forward into human clinical trials.


Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) is the only human polyomavirus currently known to cause human cancer. MCPyV is believed to be an etiological factor in at least 80% of cases of the rare but aggressive skin malignancy Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). In these MCPyV+ MCC tumors, clonal integration of the viral genome results in the continued expression of two viral proteins: the viral small T antigen (ST) and a truncated form of the viral large T antigen. The oncogenic potential of MCPyV and the functional properties of the viral T antigens that contribute to neoplasia are becoming increasingly well-characterized with the recent development of model systems that recapitulate the biology of MCPyV+ MCC. In this review, we summarize our understanding of MCPyV and its role in MCC, followed by the current state of both in vitro and in vivo model systems used to study MCPyV and its contribution to carcinogenesis. We also highlight the remaining challenges within the field and the major considerations related to the ongoing development of in vitro and in vivo models of MCPyV+ MCC.

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