Distribution of cytokeratins and vimentin in adult renal neoplasms and normal renal tissue: potential utility of a cytokeratin antibody panel in the differential diagnosis of renal tumors

Am J Surg Pathol. 2005 Jun;29(6):747-54. doi: 10.1097/01.pas.0000163362.78475.63.


Adult renal epithelial neoplasms (RENs) comprise several distinct clinicopathologic entities with potential prognostic and therapeutic differences. Individual cases can show overlapping morphologic features, necessitating the use of ancillary methods. The purpose of this study was to determine the diagnostic utility of cytokeratin (CK) subtype expression pattern in a wide range of adult RENs. RENs (including clear cell [conventional] renal cell carcinoma (RCC), papillary RCC, chromophobe RCC, renal oncocytoma, collecting duct carcinoma (CDC), renal medullary carcinoma (RMC), urothelial carcinoma, metanephric adenoma (MA), tubulocystic carcinoma (TC) (also known as low-grade collecting duct carcinoma), and mucinous tubular and spindle cell carcinoma) were immunostained for CK subtypes (CK5/CK6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20), high molecular weight CKs 1, 5, 10, 14 (HMWCK), and vimentin (Vim). The expression pattern of normal kidney was also examined and correlated with RENs. Although there is some overlap, subtypes of RENs show distinctive CK expression profiles that may be useful in several differential diagnostic settings. Clear cell RCCs typically showed a restricted expression pattern of CK8, CK18 and Vim. Papillary RCCs typically expressed CK7, CK8, CK18, CK19, and Vim and could be distinguished from MA (CK7-). Chromophobe RCCs were typically CK7+, CK8+, CK18+, and Vim-, and could be distinguished from oncocytomas (typically CK7-). In oncocytomas, nonspecific staining of unblocked endogenous biotin is a potentially significant diagnostic pitfall. CDC, RMC, and TC demonstrated similar CK expression profiles (with the exception of HMWCK expression limited to CDC), supporting a close relationship between these entities. A panel of CK5/CK6, CK17, and Vim may be helpful in distinguishing CDC (typically CK5/CK6-, CK17-, Vim+) and urothelial carcinoma (typically CK5/CK6+, CK17+, Vim-). In conclusion, CK expression patterns may be helpful in several differential diagnostic situations when dealing with adult RENs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Keratins / biosynthesis*
  • Kidney / chemistry
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Kidney Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Vimentin / analysis
  • Vimentin / biosynthesis*


  • Vimentin
  • Keratins