HMB-45 and Melan-A are useful in the differential diagnosis between granular cell tumor and malignant melanoma

Am J Dermatopathol. 2007 Feb;29(1):22-7. doi: 10.1097/


Granular cell tumors (GCTs), especially if atypical or malignant, may share cytomorphologic and architectural features with malignant melanoma, when the latter shows granular cell change. In many cases, these neoplasms can be differentiated from each other on histologic grounds, but distinction may sometimes be challenging. By immunohistochemistry, both tumors are strongly positive for S-100 protein and frequently express other nonspecific markers such as CD68, NSE, and NKIC3. In the current study, we reviewed 60 cases of conventional cutaneous, mucosal, and visceral GCT and studied the use of immunoperoxidase staining for the differential diagnosis between malignant melanoma and GCT. Immunohistochemical stains for S-100 protein, A, HMB-45, and microphthalmia transcription factor (MITF) were performed in all cases. All of the tumors were positive for S-100 protein. MITF immunostaining was diffusely positive in 53 (88%) cases, focally positive in three (5%) cases, and negative in four (7%). Fifty-seven (95%) tumors were negative for Melan-A, one case was focally positive, and two cases showed rare positive tumor cells. None of the tumors expressed HMB-45. In conclusion, GCT and malignant melanoma can be reliably differentiated on the basis of immunohistochemical stains in the majority of cases. Although not always positive in malignant melanoma, in this context, HMB-45 expression seems to be 100% specific for the diagnosis of melanoma. Melan-A is slightly less specific, with rare cases of GCT showing focal positivity. MITF is not useful in this differential-93% of the GCTs in our series showed nuclear reactivity for this marker. The latter finding highlights the limited specificity of this antibody in the diagnosis of melanocytic tumors.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Granular Cell Tumor / diagnosis*
  • Granular Cell Tumor / metabolism
  • Granular Cell Tumor / pathology
  • Humans
  • MART-1 Antigen
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma-Specific Antigens
  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • S100 Proteins / metabolism
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MART-1 Antigen
  • MLANA protein, human
  • Melanoma-Specific Antigens
  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • S100 Proteins