Immunohistochemical characterization of subependymal giant cell astrocytomas
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Subependymal giant cell astrocytoma (SEGA) is the most common neoplastic process involving the brain in patients with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). Morphologically, these tumors exhibit a wide range of cytoarchitecture with spindle and epithelioid cells resembling astrocytes, and also large, occasionally giant cells, some of which have a distinctly ganglion-like appearance. Unresolved questions regarding SEGAs center on: (a) their cytogenesis, i.e., whether they are derived from single or multiple precursors; and (b) their differentiating capacity along glial or neuronal lines. We sought to determine whether SEGAs represent truly mixed tumors or whether they consist of a single population of cells with a capacity for divergent differentiation. Twenty SEGAs were assessed for immunophenotypic features of either neuronal or glial differentiation or both. Only tumors from patients with a clinically confirmed diagnosis of TSC were included. Immunoreactivity for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and/or S-100 protein was considered indicative of a glial phenotype, whereas the presence of neuronal differentiation was assessed by staining for cytoskeletal proteins [neurofilament epitopes, class III β-tubulin, microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2), synaptophysin], neurosecretory substances [serotonin, cholecystokinin, β-endorphin, substance P, somatostatin, met-enkephalin, neuropeptide Y, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP)], and for the 28-kDa neuron-associated calcium binding protein calbindin. Of the tumors examined, 18 exhibited both glial and neuronal epitopes, the staining pattern being variable. In 19 tumors, the constituent spindle, polygonal and giant or ganglion-like cells showed variable immunoreactivity for GFAP and S-100 protein, both within the cell body and processes. Neuron-associated cytoskeletal proteins were present in 18 cases. Class III β-tubulin immunoreactivity was demonstrated in 17 tumors, both within the bodies of all three cell types and to varying degrees within their processes. Neurofilament protein and calbindin staining was present in 8 tumors, with reactivity for the former being distributed in a phosphorylation-dependent manner. MAP2 was detected in a few cells of two tumors. Immunoreactivity for neuropeptides was observed in 17 lesions. Somatostatin and met-enkephalin staining was noted in 10 tumors (50%), being present particularly within polygonal cells. Neuropeptide Y, serotonin and β-endorphin reactivity was found in 6 (30%), 5 (25%), and 4 tumors (20%), respectively; β-endorphin was lacking in giant cells, whereas neuropeptide Y and serotonin were seen within their cell bodies. Substance P and VIP were evident in only occasional polygonal cells of 2 (10%) and 1 tumor (5%), respectively. Stains for cholecystokinin were negative. The observation of immunoreactivity for both glial- and neuron-associated epitopes within tumor cells of the same morphology suggests that SEGAs represent proliferations of cell lineages with the capacity to undergo divergent glioneuronal as well as neuroendocrine differentiation to a greater extent than do other mixed glial-neuronal neoplasms.
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