Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) is the only known human oncogenic virus in the polyomaviridae family and the etiological agent of most Merkel cell carcinomas (MCC). MCC is an aggressive and highly metastatic skin cancer with a propensity for recurrence and poor prognosis. Large tumor antigen (LT), is an essential oncoprotein for MCV transcription, viral replication, and cancer cell proliferation. MCV LT is a short-lived protein that encodes a unique domain: MCV LT unique regions (MURs). These domains consist of phosphorylation sites that interact with multiple E3 ligases, thus limiting LT expression and consequently, viral replication. In this study, we show that MURs are necessary for regulating LT stability via multiple E3 ligase interactions, resulting in cell growth arrest. While expression of wild-type MCV LT induced a decrease in cellular proliferation, deletion of the MUR domains resulted in increased LT stability and cell proliferation. Conversely, addition of MURs to SV40 LT propagated E3 ligase interactions, which in turn, reduced SV40 LT stability and decreased cell growth activity. Our results demonstrate that compared to other human polyomaviruses (HPyVs), MCV LT has evolved to acquire the MUR domains that are essential for MCV LT autoregulation, potentially leading to viral latency and MCC.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases