Molecular approaches to identification of tissue contamination in surgical pathology sections

J Mol Diagn. 2001 Feb;3(1):11-5. doi: 10.1016/S1525-1578(10)60643-5.


The finding of possibly contaminant tissues or cells in surgical or cytology case material can be a challenging problem in diagnostic anatomical pathology samples. The reported rates of occurrence have ranged from 0 to 8.8% (including prospective and retrospective cases). A diagnostically dissimilar tissue fragment, whether contiguous with other tissue or among other fragments within a paraffin section, and which is not incompatible with the case tissue, often requires a rigorous investigation to confirm or deny its relevance to the case. Fluorescence in situ hybridization using dual red and green DNA probes to regions of the X and Y chromosomes, respectively, were used in one case where the potential contaminant was suspected to have originated from a male patient. The putative contaminant tissue fragment was confirmed as male, with cells having one X and one Y chromosome, unlike the other tissue fragments on the slide with two X chromosomes. In a second case, DNA polymorphisms were used to compare allelic patterns that were informative not only in proving the extraneous tissue as a contaminant, but in addition, could be used to trace the latter to its original tissue source. The molecular tools of fluorescence in situ hybridization in sex-mismatched cases and of DNA microsatellite probes that are applicable to paraffin sections can provide definitive identifiers of tissues and individual cells. They are important adjuncts to histology for the anatomical pathologist when faced with the diagnostic problems of tissue contamination encountered in routine practice.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Artifacts*
  • Biopsy
  • Gastroscopy
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Pathology, Clinical / methods*
  • Prostate / surgery
  • Quality Control*


  • Oligonucleotide Probes