How Skin Cancer Virus (MCV) Outcompetes Host Cell Replication; New Study Sheds Light on Fundamental Question of How Viruses Override Their Host Cells’ DNA Replicating System

MCV virions

University of Pittsburgh researchers have shown for the first time how Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV), which causes an aggressive skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma, initiates DNA replication in host cells. Published on July 17, 2023 in the journal PNAS, the study sheds light on the fundamental question of how viruses override their host cells’ carefully regulated DNA replicating system to make hundreds of new copies of themselves. The open-access article is titled “Unlicensed Origin DNA Melting by MCV and SV40 Polyomavirus LT Proteins Is Independent of ATP-Dependent Helicase Activity.” “Understanding how MCV replicates gives us really important clues about how this virus can cause cancer,” said co-senior author Patrick Moore, MD,  distinguished professor in the Pitt School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Medical Genetics and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “It also provides insight into other cancer-causing viruses and why some viruses don’t cause cancer. In the future, this might help us develop new therapeutics or vaccines against cancers caused by infection.”

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