Low-affinity nerve growth factor receptor (p75) in dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans and other nonneural tumors: a study of 1,150 tumors and fetal and adult normal tissues

Hum Pathol. 2001 Sep;32(9):976-83. doi: 10.1053/hupa.2001.27602.


Low-affinity nerve growth factor receptor (p75) is a member of the tumor necrosis factor receptor family. It may modulate the binding of nerve growth factor (NGF) to the functional high-affinity receptor tyrosine kinase (trk) A. NGF is thought to be responsible for growth, apoptosis, and function of the nervous system. The presence of this receptor (p75) was determined in a large group of neural and nonneural tumors and fetal and adult tissues. One thousand one hundred fifty tumors were analyzed with monoclonal antibody for p75, along with selected normal fetal and adult tissues. Immunoreactivity for p75 was present in adult pericytes, perivascular fibroblasts, basal cells of several types of epithelia, perineurial cells, and dendritic reticulum cells. Additionally, a wide zone of subepithelial mesenchyme and skeletal muscle were positive in the first-trimester fetus, but were diminished or negative in the adult. Consistently positive nonneural mesenchymal tumors included dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP), embryonal and alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, synovial sarcoma, and spindle cell hemangio(endotheli)oma. Schwann cell tumors, ganglioneuroma, granular cell tumor, and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) were also p75 positive. Mesenchymal nonneural tumors that were variably positive (32% to 69%) for p75 included fibrosarcoma variants, solitary fibrous tumor, hemangiopericytoma, spindle cell lipoma, Ewing's sarcoma, mesenchymal chondrosarcoma, and malignant melanoma. Nervous system tumors such as paragangliomas, neuroblastoma, meningioma, and perineurioma and nonneural mesenchymal tumors, including extraskeletal osteosarcoma, benign fibrous histiocytomas, fibromas, alveolar soft part sarcoma, epithelioid sarcoma, smooth muscle and gastrointestinal stromal tumors, and angiosarcomas, were almost always negative for p75. Epithelial tumors that were consistently positive included mixed tumor and adenoid cystic carcinoma, whereas mesothelioma, adenocarcinomas, and most squamous cell carcinomas were negative. p75 is not a specific marker for nerve sheath tumors. It is present in a variety of other mesenchymal tumors including synovial sarcoma and in CD34-positive tumors such as DFSP, spindle cell lipoma, and hemangiopericytoma. The presence of p75 in nonneural tumors such as DFSP and rhabdomyosarcoma mimic its presence in early fetal mesenchyme and skeletal muscle, suggesting oncofetal expression in these tumors. p75 may be useful to distinguish DFSP from benign fibrous histiocytoma.

MeSH terms

  • Connective Tissue / embryology
  • Connective Tissue / metabolism
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / metabolism*
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma / pathology
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Fetus / metabolism*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Muscle, Skeletal / embryology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Nervous System Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Nervous System Neoplasms / pathology
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor