Cytokeratin expression in adrenocortical neoplasia: An immunohistochemical and biochemical study with implications for the differential diagnosis of adrenocortical, hepatocellular, and renal cell carcinoma Academic Article Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Algorithms
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lung Neoplasms


  • The immunostaining patterns of adrenocortical tumors are not clearly defined, primarily due to their inconsistent expression of cytokeratins (CK). To address this issue and to investigate whether adrenocortical tumors can be immunohistochemically differentiated from histologically similar tumors arising from the kidney and liver, we studied four normal adrenal glands, two adrenocortical adenomas (ACAs), 31 adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs), 37 renal cell carcinomas (RCCs), and 33 hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) with anti-CK antibodies AE1, CAM 5.2, UCD/PR10.11, 35BH11, PKK1, and Ks19.1, as well as antibodies to vimentin (VIM), epithelial membrane antigen (EMA), and HMFG-2. Normal adrenal cortical cells showed variable staining with all anti-CK antibodies on fixed and frozen sections. In contrast, only one of two fixed ACAs stained with a single anti-CK, although both neoplasms reacted with multiple anti-CK antibodies on frozen sections. Similarly, 20 of 31 fixed ACCs contained VIM, but only one tumor stained for CK; frozen sections of this and another, previously negative tumor, however, stained with most of the anti-CK antibodies tested. One-dimensional Western immunoblot analysis confirmed the presence of CKs 18 and 19 in two examples of normal adrenal cortex, one ACA, and the ACC immunohistochemically positive on fixed and frozen sections, with CK 19 identified in the ACC that was positive on frozen section alone. All fixed HCCs and most RCCs stained with multiple anti-CK antibodies (33 and 34 cases, respectively), with a proportion of tumors positive for VIM (six and 22 cases, respectively), EMA (seven and 30 cases, respectively), and HMFG-2 (15 and 28 cases, respectively). The results suggest that CK expression is diminished in most adrenocortical tumors to levels too low to be recognized following the deleterious effects of fixation. While the immunohistochemical absence of CK, EMA, and HMFG-2 in fixed sections in the majority of ACCs is distinctive, sufficient phenotypic overlap exists such that differentiation between RCC and HCC may not be possible in an individual case.

publication date

  • January 1992



  • Academic Article


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/0046-8177(92)90235-U

PubMed ID

  • 1371262

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 144

end page

  • 53


  • 23


  • 2