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Journal of Skin Cancer
Volume 2012, Article ID 680410, 6 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/680410
Review Article

Which Are the Cells of Origin in Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

Department of Dermatology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Martinistraße 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany

Received 12 October 2012; Accepted 27 November 2012

Academic Editor: Boban M. Erovic

Copyright © 2012 Thomas Tilling and Ingrid Moll. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a highly aggressive skin tumour with increasing incidence, is associated with the newly discovered Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). Studies on MCC and MCPyV as well as other risk factors have significantly increased our knowledge of MCC pathogenesis, but the cells of origin, which could be important targets in future therapies, are still unknown. Merkel cells (MCs), the neuroendocrine cells of the skin, were believed to be at the origin of MCC due to their phenotypic similarities. However, for several reasons, for example, heterogeneous differentiation of MCCs and postmitotic character of MCs, it is not very likely that MCC develops from differentiated MCs. Skin stem cells, probably from the epidermal lineage, are more likely to be cells of origin in MCC. Future studies will have to address these questions more directly in order to identify the physiological cells which are transformed to MCC cells.