Nestin, a neuroectodermal stem cell marker molecule, is expressed in Leydig cells of the human testis and in some specific cell types from human testicular tumours

Cell Tissue Res. 2004 Jun;316(3):369-76. doi: 10.1007/s00441-003-0848-4. Epub 2004 May 4.


The intermediate filament protein nestin is predominantly expressed in some stem/progenitor cells and appears to be a useful molecular tool to characterise tumours originating from precursor cells of neuroectodermal and mesenchymal lineages. Leydig cells originate in the adult testis by differentiation from stem cells and express a variety of neural and neuroendocrine markers. The possible expression of the neural stem cell marker nestin in Leydig cells and testicular tumour cells was determined by analysing the patterns of nestin expression in normal and pathological human testes by Western blot and immunohistochemical methods. In normal testis, nestin was found in some vascular endothelial cells, a subset of peritubular spindle-shaped cells and some Leydig cells; spermatogenic and Sertoli cells were unstained. In normal Leydig cells, nestin was distributed in the perinuclear cytoplasm and accumulated in the crystalloids of Reinke with ageing. In non-tumour pathologies (cryptorchidism, impaired spermatogenesis), the seminiferous tubules were immunonegative, whereas hyperplastic Leydig cells showed cytoplasmic immunolabelling. In testicular malignancies, nestin was localised in the Sertoli cells of the seminiferous tubules affected with intratubular germ cell neoplasia, in the hyperplastic Leydig cells associated with these tumours and in some components (mesenchymal and neuroepithelial cells) of teratomas; spermatocytic and non-spermatocytic seminomas were unstained. Some vascular endothelial cells were immunolabelled in all tumour samples. Thus, nestin is expressed in a population of normal and hyperplastic Leydig cells and in Sertoli cells in the presence of intratubular germ-cell neoplasia. Nestin may be a good marker for identifying components of testicular teratomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigens, Differentiation / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Child
  • Ectoderm / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / pathology
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Germ Cells / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Leydig Cells / metabolism*
  • Leydig Cells / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / pathology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Nestin
  • Seminiferous Tubules / metabolism
  • Seminiferous Tubules / pathology
  • Sertoli Cells / metabolism
  • Sertoli Cells / pathology
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Teratoma / metabolism*
  • Teratoma / pathology
  • Testicular Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Testicular Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • NES protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Nestin