T-helper cell-mediated proliferation and cytokine responses against recombinant merkel cell polyomavirus-like particles

Arun Kumar, Tingting Chen, Sari Pakkanen, Anu Kantele, Maria Söderlund-Venermo, Klaus Hedman, Rauli Franssila

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14 Scopus citations


The newly discovered Merkel Cell Polyomavirus (MCPyV) resides in approximately 80% of Merkel cell carcinomas (MCC). Causal role of MCPyV for this rare and aggressive skin cancer is suggested by monoclonal integration and truncation of large T (LT) viral antigen in MCC cells. The mutated MCPyV has recently been found in highly purified leukemic cells from patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), suggesting a pathogenic role also in CLL. About 50-80% of adults display MCPyV-specific antibodies. The humoral immunity does not protect against the development of MCC, as neutralizing MCPyV antibodies occur in higher levels among MCC patients than healthy controls. Impaired T-cell immunity has been linked with aggressive MCC behavior. Therefore, cellular immunity appears to be important in MCPyV infection surveillance. In order to elucidate the role of MCPyV-specific Th-cell immunity, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of healthy adults were stimulated with MCPyV VP1 virus-like particles (VLPs), using human bocavirus (HBoV) VLPs and Candida albicans antigen as positive controls. Proliferation, IFN-γ, IL-13 and IL-10 responses were examined in 15 MCPyV-seropositive and 15 seronegative volunteers. With the MCPyV antigen, significantly stronger Th-cell responses were found in MCPyV-seropositive than MCPyV-seronegative subjects, whereas with the control antigens, the responses were statistically similar. The most readily detectable cytokine was IFN-γ. The MCPyV antigen tended to induce stronger IFN-γ responses than HBoV VLP antigen. Taken together, MCPyV-specific Th-cells elicit vigorous IFN-γ responses. IFN-γ being a cytokine with major antiviral and tumor suppressing functions, Th-cells are suggested to be important mediators of MCPyV-specific immune surveillance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere25751
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 3 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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