Cytokeratins as markers of follicular differentiation: an immunohistochemical study of trichoblastoma and basal cell carcinoma

Am J Dermatopathol. 2001 Dec;23(6):501-9. doi: 10.1097/00000372-200112000-00001.


Trichoblastoma(s) (TB) are benign neoplasms of follicular differentiation frequently found in nevus sebaceus. Many morphologic features are shared with nodular basal cell carcinoma(s) (BCC), sometimes rendering the differential diagnosis difficult. Because both neoplasms can simulate components of mature hair follicles histologically, we attempted to corroborate this by immunohistochemical examination of cytokeratins and hair keratins differentially expressed in the hair follicle. Trichoblastoma(s) and BCC showed homogenous expression of CK14 and CK17. The innermost cells of the tumor nodules in all TB and in 72% of BCC were positive for CK6hf. Using a specific CK15 antibody, 38% of TB showed a focal labeling and all BCC remained negative; 70% of TB and 22% of BCC expressed CK19. CK8 was expressed by numerous Merkel cells present in all TB but in none of the BCC examined. All type I and II hair keratins tested, (especially hHa1, hHa5, and hHa8) remained negative in all tumors examined. Trichoblastoma(s) and BCC show consistent expression of CK6hf, CK14, and CK17; variable expression of CK15 and CK19; and absence of hair keratins. This indicates a differentiation toward the outer root sheath epithelium or the companion layer and not toward the inner root sheath, matrix, or cortex.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / chemistry
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Hair / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratins / analysis*
  • Skin / chemistry
  • Skin Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Keratins