Immunohistochemical expression of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF), and its receptors (VEGFR1, 2) in normal and pathologic conditions of the human thymus

Ann Anat. 2008;190(3):238-45. doi: 10.1016/j.aanat.2007.05.003. Epub 2008 Feb 1.


Vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) is an angiogenic growth factor that is a primary stimulant of the vascularization of solid tumors. In the tumor microenvironment, an upregulation of both VEGF and its receptors occurs, leading to a high concentration of occupied receptors on tumor vascular endothelium. Also, VEGF is involved in the development of the normal vascular network of the thymus. Little is known about VEGF expression in normal and malignant thymic tissue. Our purpose was to study the pattern and localization of VEGF expression in benign conditions of the thymus and thymoma to determine a possible correlation with VEGF receptors VEGFR1, VEGFR2 and microvascular density. All cases were positive for VEGF and VEGFR1, 2 in the epithelial cells, in a cytoplasmic, granular pattern. In the normal thymus, there were positive epithelial cells with subcapsular distribution and Hassall's corpuscle epithelial cells. In acute thymic involution, the positive fields were correlated with dilation and stasis of blood vessels and lymphocyte depletion. Rare positive cells were found in other types of involution; the myasthenic thymus showed an intense and diffuse reaction in lymphoid follicles of the medulla. A strong reaction for VEGF was observed in type B3 thymomas in neoplastic epithelial cells, normal endothelial cells, plasma within the blood vessels and focally in the stroma adjacent to the tumor. Receptors for VEGF were positive in neoplastic epithelial cells and endothelium. We hypothesized that VEGF acts as an immunoregulatory factor in the normal thymus and as proangiogenic and autocrine factor in thymomas.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Infant
  • Reference Values
  • Thymectomy
  • Thymoma / metabolism
  • Thymoma / pathology*
  • Thymus Gland / metabolism*
  • Thymus Gland / pathology*
  • Thymus Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Thymus Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-1 / metabolism*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 / metabolism*


  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-1
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2