OCT4 staining in testicular tumors: a sensitive and specific marker for seminoma and embryonal carcinoma

Am J Surg Pathol. 2004 Jul;28(7):935-40. doi: 10.1097/00000478-200407000-00014.


OCT4 (POU5F1) is a transcription factor expressed in embryonic stem and germ cells and is involved in the regulation and maintenance of pluripotency. It has been detected in primary testicular germ cell tumors with pluripotent potential, seminoma, and embryonal carcinoma. We undertook immunohistochemical staining of OCT4 in a wide variety of primary testicular neoplasms (germ cell tumors and other tumors) to assess the specificity and usefulness of this marker as a diagnostic tool. We examined histologic sections from 91 primary testicular neoplasms, including 64 cases of mixed germ cell tumors containing embryonal carcinoma (54), seminoma (51), yolk sac tumor (38), mature teratoma (31), immature teratoma (20), and choriocarcinoma (15). In addition, we examined sections from spermatocytic seminomas (5), Leydig cell tumors (8), Sertoli cell tumors (6), unclassified sex-cord stromal tumors (4), adenomatoid tumors (2), testicular tumor of adrenogenital syndrome (1), and granulosa cell tumor (1). Each tumor was examined with hematoxylin and eosin staining and with antibodies to OCT4. In all cases of mixed germ cell tumor with components of embryonal carcinoma (54) and seminoma (51), there was greater than 90% nuclear staining of the embryonal carcinoma and seminoma tumor cells with little to no background staining. In all but 1 of these cases (embryonal carcinoma), there was strong (3+) staining intensity. The other germ cell tumor components (yolk sac tumor, mature teratoma, immature teratoma, and choriocarcinoma) showed no staining. Syncytiotrophoblast cells, which were present in 15 of the cases, were also completely negative, as were all 5 of the spermatocytic seminomas. The 22 cases of non-germ cell tumors were all immunohistochemically negative for OCT4. Fifteen of the 54 germ cell tumors containing embryonal carcinoma were also examined with antibodies to CD30. These embryonal carcinoma components were all positive for CD30 with staining of greater than 90% of the tumor cells but with variable staining intensity. We conclude that immunostaining with antibodies to OCT4 is a useful diagnostic tool in the identification of primary testicular embryonal carcinomas and "usual," but not spermatocytic, seminomas. OCT4 immunostaining has comparable sensitivity but greater consistency compared with CD30 in the diagnosis of embryonal carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Adenomatoid Tumor / chemistry
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Carcinoma, Embryonal / chemistry*
  • Choriocarcinoma, Non-gestational / chemistry
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / analysis*
  • Endodermal Sinus Tumor / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ki-1 Antigen / analysis
  • Leydig Cell Tumor / chemistry
  • Male
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3
  • Seminoma / chemistry*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sertoli Cell Tumor / chemistry
  • Sex Cord-Gonadal Stromal Tumors / chemistry
  • Teratoma / chemistry
  • Testicular Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Transcription Factors*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Ki-1 Antigen
  • Octamer Transcription Factor-3
  • POU5F1 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors