Neoplasms with schwannian differentiation express transcription factors known to regulate normal schwann cell development

Int J Surg Pathol. 2010 Dec;18(6):449-57. doi: 10.1177/1066896909351698. Epub 2009 Dec 24.


A number of transcription factors have been identified as important in guiding normal Schwann cell development. This study used immunohistochemistry on tissue arrays to assess the expression of some of these transcription factors (Sox5, Sox9, Sox10, AP-2α, Pax7, and FoxD3) on 76 schwannomas, 105 neurofibromas, and 34 malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs). Sox9 and Sox10 were found to be widely expressed in all tumor types. FoxD3 reactivity was stronger and more frequently found in schwannomas and MPNSTs than neurofibromas. AP-2α was positive in 31% to 49% of all tumors, but strong reactivity was limited to MPNSTs and schwannomas. Pax7 and Sox5 expression was restricted to subsets of MPNSTs. Statistical analysis showed significant differences between the 3 tumor types in the expression of these markers. No differences were found in the analyzed tumor subgroups, including schwannomas of different sites, schwannomas with or without NF2 association, neurofibromas of different types, or sporadic versus NF1-associated MPNSTs. These results suggest that the transcription factors that guide normal Schwann cell development also play a role in the biology of neoplastic cells with Schwannian differentiation. FoxD3, AP-2α, Pax7, and Sox5 are upregulated in MPNSTs compared with neurofibromas and may be markers of malignant transformation. Screening the expression of FoxD3, Sox9, and Sox10 on 23 cases of other spindle-cell proliferations that may be considered in the differential diagnosis of MPNST, including synovial sarcoma and spindle cell melanoma, suggests that these 3 are helpful markers of Schwannian differentiation in the context of diagnosing MPNSTs.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Peripheral Nervous System Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Neoplasms / pathology
  • Schwann Cells / metabolism*
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Transcription Factors / analysis
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Transcription Factors