Sox9, a master regulator of chondrogenesis, distinguishes mesenchymal chondrosarcoma from other small blue round cell tumors
High Mobility Group Proteins
Over the last decade, a number of "master regulator" genes that control distinct pathways of mesenchymal differentiation have been discovered. These genes are expressed early during embryogenesis and initiate a cascade of gene expression responsible for specific cell lineage commitment. Thus, identification of their products may allow the classification of seemingly primitive, morphologically uncommitted tumors such as small blue round cell tumors. The transcription factor Sox9 has been demonstrated to be a master regulator of the differentiation of mesenchymal cells into chondrocytes. For this reason, we examined the utility of Sox9 in distinguishing mesenchymal chondrosarcoma (a small cell malignancy thought to be derived from primitive chondroprogenitor cells) from other primitive small cell malignancies. Representative sections from 90 cases of small blue round cell tumors (22 mesenchymal chodrosarcoma, 10 neuroblastomas, 11 rhabdomyosarcomas, 9 Ewing's sarcomas/primitive neuroectodermal tumors, 5 desmoplastic small round cell tumors, 7 small cell carcinomas, 6 Merkel cell carcinomas, 6 small cell osteosarcomas, 7 diffuse large B-cell lymphomas, 7 lymphoblastic leukemias/lymphomas, and 5 extraskeletal myxoid chondrosarcomas) were immunohistochemically stained with antibodies to Sox9 protein. All but 1 mesenchymal chondrosarcoma showed positive nuclear staining in both primitive mesenchymal and cartilaginous components of the tumor. All other types of small blue round cell tumors, as well as the lymphomas and leukemias, were negative for Sox9 protein. These findings confirm that mesenchymal chondrosarcoma has phenotypic features corresponding to the early condensational phase of cartilaginous differentiation. More important, Sox9 may serve as a useful tool in the differentiation of small cell malignancies.