Merkel cells in the oral mucosa

Int J Surg Pathol. 2006 Jul;14(3):206-11. doi: 10.1177/1066896906290053.


Ninety-eight consecutive surgical biopsies of oral mucosa from 96 patients were evaluated immunohistochemically with an anti-cytokeratin 20 (CK 20) anti-body to evidence Merkel cells (MC). Fifteen cases, showing the highest number of MC, were additionally studied with chromogranin A, S-100 protein, neuro filaments, epithelial membrane antigen, and double immunostaining for CK 20 and Ki67 antibodies to evaluate MC proliferation. Electron microscopy was performed in 2 cases. MC were observed in 58 cases. The highest number of MC was found in the gingival, buccal, and palate mucosa, especially in chronically damaged oral mucosa (lichen and chronic aspecific inflammation) as well as in the mucosa overlying tumors rather than in normal or acute inflammation. MC were not observed in dysplastic or neoplastic epithelium. MC showed evidence of proliferation, as demonstrated by Ki67 positivity, in 3 cases. In conclusion, MC appear to play a role in the reparative processes of oral mucosa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biopsy
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratin-20
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Merkel Cells / chemistry
  • Merkel Cells / pathology*
  • Merkel Cells / ultrastructure
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Mucosa / chemistry
  • Mouth Mucosa / pathology*
  • Mouth Mucosa / ultrastructure


  • Biomarkers
  • KRT20 protein, human
  • Keratin-20
  • Keratins