CDX-2 homeobox gene product expression in neuroendocrine tumors: its role as a marker of intestinal neuroendocrine tumors

Am J Surg Pathol. 2004 Sep;28(9):1169-76. doi: 10.1097/01.pas.0000131531.75602.b9.


CDX-2 is a homeobox gene product essential for intestinal development and differentiation. It can be used as a specific marker of colorectal adenocarcinomas and other tumors with intestinal differentiation, but little is known about its expression in endocrine and neuroendocrine (NE) cells and NE primary and metastatic tumors. Using the Cdx-2-88 monoclonal antibody, we evaluated CDX-2 expression in routine samples of 20 normal endocrine/NE tissues and of 299 samples of well-differentiated NE tumors (WDNET) and high-grade NE carcinomas (NEC) from different sites. For 17 cases, we examined primary and corresponding metastatic lesions. We also examined 8 cytologic samples of liver metastases derived from 4 ileal WDNETs, 1 lung WDNET, and 3 pancreatic endocrine tumors. CDX-2 mRNA expression with RT-PCR technique on frozen material was evaluated in 5 WDNETs. CDX-2 was expressed in normal NE cells of the intestine and gastric fundus. High CDX-2 expression was seen in all ileal and appendiceal WDNET, while low levels were seen in WDNETs from stomach, duodenum, and rectum; no reactivity was seen in other WDNETs. Low levels of CDX-2 expression were seen in one third of nonfunctioning pancreatic WDNET where it was more frequently observed in cases with metastatic disease (P = 0.002). CDX-2 was identified in all cytologic specimens of metastatic ileal WDNETs. CDX-2 mRNA analysis confirmed immunohistochemical results. CDX-2 was expressed at high levels in 81% of intestinal NEC. Unexpectedly, variable levels of expression of CDX-2 were seen also in 39% of NEC of other sites, without any relation with the site of origin. This reactivity frequently overlapped TTF-1 expression, suggesting deregulated expression of homeobox genes in NEC. The restricted pattern of CDX-2 expression may have diagnostic value in the identification of the primary site of a metastatic WDNET. Conversely, a limited diagnostic role is suggested for CDX-2 in NEC because of its frequent expression in nongastrointestinal tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CDX2 Transcription Factor
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, Homeobox / genetics*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / genetics*
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / pathology*
  • Trans-Activators


  • CDX2 Transcription Factor
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Trans-Activators