Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) in the context of immunosuppression: Genetic analysis of noncoding control region (NCCR) Variability among a HIV-1-positive population

Carla Prezioso, Francisco Obregon, Donatella Ambroselli, Sara Petrolo, Paola Checconi, Donatella Maria Rodio, Luigi Coppola, Angelo Nardi, Corrado De Vito, Loredana Sarmati, Massimo Andreoni, Anna Teresa Palamara, Marco Ciotti, Valeria Pietropaolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Since limited data are available about the prevalence of Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) and the genetic variability of its noncoding control region (NCCR) in the context of immunosuppression, this study aimed to investigate the distribution of MCPyV in anatomical sites other than the skin and the behavior of NCCR among an HIV-1-positive population. Methods: Urine, plasma, and rectal swabs specimens from a cohort of 66 HIV-1-positive patients were collected and subjected to quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) for MCPyV DNA detection. MCPyV-positive samples were amplified by nested PCR targeting the NCCR, and NCCRs alignment was carried out to evaluate the occurrence of mutations and to identify putative binding sites for cellular factors. Results: MCPyV DNA was detected in 10/66 urine, in 7/66 plasma, and in 23/66 rectal samples, with a median value of 5 × 102 copies/mL, 1.5 × 102 copies/mL, and 2.3 × 103 copies/mL, respectively. NCCR sequence analysis revealed a high degree of homology with the MCC350 reference strain in urine, whereas transitions, transversions, and single or double deletions were observed in plasma and rectal swabs. In these latter samples, representative GTT and GTTGA insertions were also observed. Search for putative binding sites of cellular transcription factors showed that in several strains, deletions, insertions, or single base substitutions altered the NCCR canonical configuration. Conclusions: Sequencing analysis revealed the presence of numerous mutations in the NCCR, including insertions and deletions. Whether these mutations may have an impact on the pathogenic features of the virus remains to be determined. qPCR measured on average a low viral load in the specimens analyzed, with the exception of those with the GTTGA insertion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number507
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • GTT and GTTGA insertions
  • HIV-1-positive population
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus
  • Noncoding control region
  • Putative binding sites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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