MAGE-A4, a germ cell specific marker, is expressed differentially in testicular tumors

Cancer. 2001 Dec 1;92(11):2778-85. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(20011201)92:11<2778::aid-cncr10125>;2-s.


Background: Testicular germ cell tumors are the most common malignancy in young males, and the frequency of these tumors has risen dramatically over the last century. Because it is known that the MAGE genes are expressed in a wide variety of tumors but are expressed only in the mitotic spermatogonia (germ cells) and in the primary spermatocytes in the normal testis, the authors screened the expression of MAGE-A4 in a panel of testicular germ cell tumors.

Methods: Monoclonal antibody 57B raised against MAGE-A4 was tested immunohistochemically on 12 classical seminomas, 5 anaplastic seminomas, 10 various specimens of nonseminomatous germ cell tumors (NSGCTs), 2 combined tumors containing seminoma components, 1 Sertoli cell tumor, 2 Leydig cell tumors, and 15 carcinomas in situ (CIS). In addition, monoclonal antibody 57B was tested on embryonic gonad (age 8 weeks) and fetal gonads (ages 15 weeks, 17 weeks, and 28 weeks).

Results: Classical seminomas uniformly and specifically expressed MAGE-A4 compared with anaplastic seminomas and NSGCTs, which were negative for this antigen. Specific expression of MAGE-A4 also was seen in subpopulations of CIS cells, providing additional evidence for heterogeneity of the phenotype of these cells, in which it is believed that differentiation and proliferation generate seminomas and NSGCTs. Finally, MAGE-A4 was expressed in the fetal precursors of the stem germ cells from 17 weeks of gestation onward, in accordance the fact that CIS can arise from prespermatogonia in the fetus.

Conclusions: MAGE-A4 can be considered a potential specific marker for normal premeiotic germ cells and germ cell tumors and can be used to characterize classical seminomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / analysis*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / immunology
  • Gonads / embryology
  • Gonads / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Proteins*
  • Prognosis
  • Testicular Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Testicular Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Testis / metabolism*


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MAGEA4 protein, human
  • Neoplasm Proteins