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Immunohistological evidences of cortical and medullary differentiation in thymoma


The phenotypical characteristics of human epithelial and lymphoid cells have been studied with immunohistochemical methods on frozen sections of 12 thymomas. On the basis of the cytohistological characteristics of thymoma epithelial cells (EC) the thymomas were divided in cortical, medullary and mixed types, according to recently developed light microscopical criteria. When tested with a series of monoclonal antibodies, thymoma EC were all stained by the antibody Ki-M3 (as in the thymus), but reacted with anti-HLA-DR, anti-HLA-A,B,C and with a new monoclonal antibody to cortical EC,21A6, to a lesser extent and with weaker, variable intensity in comparison with the normal thymus. Cortical type thymomas were most reactive and the medullary type almost negative. Thymomas, like normal thymus showed different immunoreactivity patterns with antibodies to prekeratins of different specificities. Cortical type thymomas and areas in mixed thymoma showed an EC staining with the antibody to non-squamous type keratin (35βH11) whereas medullary type thymomas and areas showed staining with antibodies to squamous-type keratin (34βE12-IV/82) in addition. Lymphoidcellswithcortical(OKT6+,Leu 1 weakly+,Leu2a+,Leu3a+) or mature medullary (OKT6-, Leu 1 strongly+, Leu 2a or Leu 3a+) phenotype were found to colonize tumours with diferent EC types. These immunohistochemical findings largely confirm our earlier cytological distinction of thymoma EC. In addition important differences have been observed in neoplastic cortical EC concerning the HLA-DR and 21A6 immunoreactivity that may be intimately related to the neoplastic process and paraneoplastic immune phenomena.

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Correspondence to Hans Konrad Müller-Hermelink.

Additional information

This work has been supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, SFB 111, project CN5

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Müller-Hermelink, H.K., Marino, M., Palestro, G. et al. Immunohistological evidences of cortical and medullary differentiation in thymoma. Vichows Archiv A Pathol Anat 408, 143–161 (1985).

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Key words

  • Thymoma
  • cortical/medullary differentiation
  • Immunohistology