Expression of PAX2 in papillary serous carcinoma of the ovary: immunohistochemical evidence of fallopian tube or secondary Müllerian system origin?

Mod Pathol. 2007 Aug;20(8):856-63. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.3800827. Epub 2007 May 25.


PAX2 is a urogenital developmental transcription factor expressed in the Wolffian ducts, developing kidneys, and Müllerian ducts during embryonic stage. Its function in renal development is well documented and its clinical application in the diagnosis of lesions of renal origin has been reported recently. However, information on its role in the Müllerian-derived genital tract is sparse. In this study, we investigated the expression of PAX2 in human female genital tract using immunohistochemistry. We demonstrated that PAX2 was expressed specifically in the epithelial cells of fallopian tube, endometrial and endocervical glands, but not in the stromal tissues in these areas. PAX2 was detected in secondary Müllerian structures in the ovary, such as endometriotic and endosalpingiotic glands and rete ovarii, but not in ovarian surface epithelium, surface epithelium-derived inclusion cysts, stroma, or sex-cord-derived structures such as follicles, oocytes, and corpus luteum. In addition, PAX2 was detected in 67% of ovarian papillary serous carcinomas (N=36) but rarely in peritoneal malignant mesotheliomas, with two exceptions (N=54). Interestingly, the two PAX2-positive 'peritoneal malignant mesotheliomas' were from female patients and were positive for estrogen receptor. The significance of expression of PAX2 and estrogen receptor in these cases is under investigation. Taken together, we suggest that PAX2 is a novel Müllerian-specific epithelial marker when used in proper clinical settings. Identification of PAX2 in the majority of papillary serous carcinomas of the ovary but not in the ovarian surface epithelium or epithelium-derived inclusion cysts suggests that this malignant epithelial tumor may be directly derived from the primary or secondary Müllerian epithelium in or surrounding the ovary, rather than from the surface epithelium or its derivatives.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cervix Uteri / chemistry
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Papillary / chemistry*
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Papillary / pathology
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / chemistry*
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / pathology
  • Epithelial Cells / chemistry*
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Fallopian Tubes / chemistry*
  • Fallopian Tubes / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry* / methods
  • Mesothelioma / chemistry
  • Middle Aged
  • Mullerian Ducts / chemistry*
  • Mullerian Ducts / pathology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ovary / chemistry
  • PAX2 Transcription Factor / analysis*
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Uterus / chemistry
  • Vagina / chemistry


  • PAX2 Transcription Factor
  • PAX2 protein, human