Expression of the intermediate filament nestin in gastrointestinal stromal tumors and interstitial cells of Cajal

Am J Pathol. 2001 Mar;158(3):817-23. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)64029-1.


It has recently been proposed that gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) originate from stem cells that differentiate toward a phenotype of interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs). Nestin is a newly identified intermediate filament protein, and is predominantly expressed in immature cells, such as neuroectodermal stem cells and skeletal muscle progenitor cells, and tumors originating from these cells. In this study, we examined, using immunohistochemistry, the nestin expression in GISTs and ICCs to clarify the origin of GISTs. Strong immunoreactivity for nestin was observed in all 18 GISTs, and its expression was confirmed by Western blot and Northern blot analyses. In contrast, three leiomyomas and a schwannoma that developed in the gastrointestinal tract showed no apparent immunoreactivity for nestin. Among 17 mesenchymal tumors (seven leiomyosarcomas, five malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, and five fibrosarcomas) that occurred in sites other than the gastrointestinal tract, only two malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors were moderately immunoreactive for nestin. Furthermore, with fluorescence double immunostaining of the normal small intestine, nestin expression was demonstrated in ICCs. These results show that nestin may be a useful marker for diagnosis of GISTs, and support the current hypothesis that GISTs are tumors of stem cells that differentiate toward an ICC phenotype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / genetics
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / immunology
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism*
  • Intestine, Small / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Connective Tissue / metabolism*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins*
  • Nestin
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • NES protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nestin
  • RNA, Messenger