Intermediate filament proteins and actin isoforms as markers for soft tissue tumor differentiation and origin: I. Smooth muscle tumors


A series of 3 benign and 10 malignant smooth muscle (SM) neoplasms and of 2 malignant fibrous histiocytomas was examined by light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2D-GE) and indirect immunofluorescence, using polyclonal monospecific or monoclonal antibodies to desmin, vimentin, cytokeratin, α-SM and α-sarcomeric (α-SR) actins. Benign neoplasms displayed typical light-microscopic features of SM, whereas leiomyosarcomas demonstrated variations in their histologic pattern. In 6 sarcomas, light microscopy suggested a SM differentiation, whereas in the other 4, a predominant nondistinctive spindle-cell pattern was observed. By transmission electron microscopy, all 13 neoplasms showed the minimal essential features of SM differentiation. Immunofluorescence disclosed heterogeneity of cytoskeletal protein expression: 5 neoplasms (3 benign and 2 malignant well-differentiated) expressed desmin, vimentin, and α-SM-actin; 2 malignant neoplasms expressed desmin and vimentin; 1 malignant neoplasm expressed desmin, vimentin and α-SR actin; 1 malignant neoplasm expressed vimentin and α-SR actin; and 4 malignant neoplasms expressed vimentin alone. By 2D-GE, 3 benign and 4 malignant SM neoplasms expressed α, β, and γ actins, and the remaining expressed only β and γ actins. The presence of α-SM actin in all benign neoplasms and in 2 well-differentiated leiomyosarcomas suggests that this actin isoform reflects a high degree of cellular differentiation. In 2 leiomyosarcomas, α-SR actin was detected by immunofluorescence, which suggested a skeletal muscle differentiation of these neoplasms. This study supports the assumption that leiomyosarcomas represent a heterogeneous group of neoplasms and furnishes new criteria for their characterization.

Publication Title

American Journal of Pathology

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