Immunohistochemical expression of endothelial markers CD31, CD34, von Willebrand factor, and Fli-1 in normal human tissues

J Histochem Cytochem. 2006 Apr;54(4):385-95. doi: 10.1369/jhc.4A6514.2005. Epub 2005 Oct 18.


Few systematic studies have been published comparing the expression and distribution of endothelial cell (EC) markers in different vascular beds in normal human tissues. We investigated by immunohistochemistry the expression of CD31, CD34, von Willebrand factor (vWF), and Fli-1 in EC of the major organs and large vessels. Tissue samples obtained from autopsies and biopsy specimens were routinely processed and stained immunohistochemically for CD31, CD34, and vWF. Biopsy material was also stained immunohistochemically for Fli-1, D2-40, and Lyve-1. The expression pattern of the markers was heterogeneous in some of the organs studied. In the kidney, fenestrated endothelium of the glomeruli strongly expressed CD31 and CD34 but was only focally positive or completely negative for vWF. Alveolar wall capillaries of the lung strongly stained for CD31 and CD34 but were usually negative for vWF. The staining intensity for vWF increased gradually with the vessel caliber in the lung. Sinusoids of the spleen and liver were diffusely positive for CD31. They were negative for CD34 in the spleen and only expressed CD34 in the periportal area in the liver. Fli-1 was expressed in all types of EC but also in lymphocytes. D2-40 stained lymphatic endothelium only. Lyve-1 immunostaining was too variable to be applied to routinely processed tissues. The expression of EC markers CD31, CD34, and vWF in the vascular tree is heterogeneous with a specific pattern for individual vessel types and different anatomic compartments of the same organ. D2-40 labels lymphatic EC only.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD34 / biosynthesis*
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Lymphatic / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Gelsolin / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Organ Specificity
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / biosynthesis*
  • Trans-Activators
  • von Willebrand Factor / biosynthesis*


  • Antigens, CD34
  • Biomarkers
  • FLII protein, human
  • Gelsolin
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Trans-Activators
  • von Willebrand Factor