Merkel cell carcinoma is a cancer induced by the Merkel cell polyoma virus. Recently, data has shown an increase in a gene responsible for lactate transport in cells expressing the main Merkel protein. Lactate is normalled used in tumorgenic cells to induce the Warburg effect where the decrease in pH in the surrounding tissue causes inflammation and an increase in the amount of blood sent to the tissue. Interestingly, the gene in question is responsible for bringing lactate into the cell.
The study of viruses is important as it provides insight to the many different cell pathways that can be interupted or modified. This is especially true in polyoma viral cancers. With this in mind, there are many questions that arise from the data. Is lactate being transported into the cell and why? Are there any cancers that exhibit this phenotype and can it be stopped in any way, shape, or form?
Fortunately, there are many systems in place that aid in the study of this protein, such as CRISPR and shRNA. Systems such as these allow for knockdown of the gene and further study of the phenotype to ultimately answer the question of the role of the transporter in cell transformation.