Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive neuroendocrine skin cancer that mostly occurs in the elderly. Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) is detected in approximately 80% of MCCs and is associated with carcinogenesis. Hedgehog signaling pathway plays a role in human embryogenesis and organogenesis. In addition, reactivation of this pathway later in life can cause tumors. Twenty-nineMCPyV-positive and 21 MCPyV-negative MCCs were immunohistochemically stained with primary antibodies for hedgehog signaling (SHH, IHH, PTCH1, SMO, GLI1, GLI2, and GLI3) and evaluated using H-score. Polymerase chain reaction and sequence analysis for SHH and GLI1 exons were also performed. Expression of SHH was higher in MCPyV-positive MCCs than in MCPyV-negative MCCs (P <.001). Higher expression of GLI1, MCPyV infection, male sex, and Japanese ethnicity were associated with better overall survival (P =.034, P =.001, P =.042, and P =.036, respectively). Higher expression of SHH and MCPyV infection were associated with improved MCC-specific survival (P =.037 and P =.002, respectively). The mutation analysis of prognosis-related GLI1 and SHH genes in our study revealed a low frequency of mutations in the 10 exons examined, except GLI1 exon 5 (18/22 cases), all having the same silent mutation of c.576G>A. Only 2 mutations with amino acid changes were detected in MCPyV-negative MCCs only: 1 missense mutation in GLI1 exon 4 and 1 nonsense mutation in SHH-3B. Expression of SHH and GLI1 may be useful prognostic markers of MCC because increased expression was associated with better prognosis. The high rate of c.576G>A silent mutation in GLI1 exon 5 was a feature of MCC.
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