Merkel Cell Polyomavirus (MCV) is a common infectious agent likely to be involved in the pathogenesis of most Merkel cell carcinomas (MCC). Trichodysplasia spinulosa-associated polyomavirus (TSV), which exhibit high seroprevalence in general population, has been detected in trichodysplasia spinulosa (TS) skin lesions suggesting an etiological role for this disease. Previous studies have shown strong MCV-specific T-cell responses, while no data exist on T-cell immunity against TSV. In order to characterize Th-cell immunity against TSV, and to allow comparisons with the MCV-specific Th-cell immunity, we studied TSV-specific proliferation, IFN-γ, IL-10 and IL-13, and MCV-specific IFN-γ and IL-10 responses in 51 healthy volunteers, and in one MCC patient. Recombinant TSV and MCV VP1 virus-like particles (VLPs) were used as antigens. A significant correlation was found between virus-specific Th-cell and antibody responses with TSV; with MCV it proved weaker. Despite significant homology in amino acid sequences, Th-cell crossreactivity was not evident between these viruses. Some subjects seronegative to both TSV and MCV exhibited Th-cell responses to both viruses. The agent initially priming these Th-cells remains an enigma. As CD8<bold>+</bold> cells specific to MCV T-Ag oncoprotein clearly provide an important defense against established MCC, the MCV VP1-specific Th-cells may, by suppressing MCV replication with antiviral cytokines such as IFN-γ, significantly contribute to preventing the full process of oncogenesis.
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