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J Virol Methods. 2013 Jan;187(1):6-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jviromet.2012.10.001. Epub 2012 Oct 18.

Characterization of an early passage Merkel cell polyomavirus-positive Merkel cell carcinoma cell line, MS-1, and its growth in NOD scid gamma mice.

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Cancer Virology Program, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive skin cancer with a high mortality rate. The majority of MCC (70-80%) harbor clonally integrated Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) in the tumor genome and express viral T antigen oncoproteins. The characterization of an early passage MCV-positive MCC cell line MS-1 is described, and its cellular, immunohistochemical, and virological features to MCV-negative (UISO, MCC13, and MCC26) and MCV-positive cell lines (MKL-1 and MKL-2) were compared. The MS-1 cellular genome harbors integrated MCV, which preserves an identical viral sequence from its parental tumor. Neither VP2 gene transcripts nor VP1 protein are detectable in MS-1 or other MCV-positive MCC cell lines tested. Mapping of viral and cellular integration sites in MS-1 and MCC tumor samples demonstrates no consistent viral or cellular gene integration locus. All MCV-positive cell lines show cytokeratin 20 positivity and grow in suspension. When injected subcutaneously into NOD scid gamma (NSG) mice, MS-1 forms a discrete macroscopic tumor. Immunophenotypic analysis of the MS-1 cell line and xenografts in mice show identical profiles to the parental tumor biopsy. Hence, MS-1 is an early passage cell line that provides a useful in vitro model to characterize MCV-positive MCC.

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