Background/Aim: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare and aggressive neuroendocrine skin cancer, frequently infected with Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). H3K27me3 acts as a repressive histone modification that epigenetically controls gene transcription. The aim of this study was to examine H3K27me3 expression in MCC. Materials and Methods: H3K27me3 expression levels were immunohistochemically analyzed in 20 MCPyV-positive MCCs, 15 MCPyV-negative MCCs with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) (combined MCCs), and six MCPyV-negative pure MCCs. Results: Reduced H3K27me3 expression was variously observed in MCCs. H3K27me3 H-score was significantly lower in MCPyV-negative MCCs than in MCPyV-positive MCCs (p=0.002). H3K27me3 expression was significantly lower in MCPyV-negative combined MCC component than in MCPyV-positive MCCs (p<0.001), MCPyV-negative pure MCCs (p=0.036), or pure MCC histology (p<0.001). Kaplan-Meier analysis showed no association of H3K27me3 with outcome. Conclusion: Differential reduction in H3K27me3 expression was observed based on MCPyV status and morphological type. These results implicate H3K27me3-mediated epigenetic changes in tumorigenesis of MCC, especially in MCPyV-negative MCC combined with SCC.
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