High level of Ets-related gene expression has high specificity for prostate cancer: a tissue microarray study of 11 483 cancers

Histopathology. 2012 Sep;61(3):445-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2559.2012.04240.x. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


Aims: TMPRSS2-ERG fusion resulting in strong Ets-related gene (ERG) overexpression occurs in about 50% of prostate cancers. This study was undertaken to determine the prevalence of ERG overexpression in other tumour types as well as in normal tissues.

Methods and results: A total of 11 483 tumours and 72 different normal tissue types were analysed in a tissue microarray format. Strong nuclear ERG overexpression was found in 36.7% of prostate carcinomas as well as in various vascular tumours, including Kaposi sarcomas (91.7%), angiosarcomas (100%) and haemangiomas (90.9%). Moderate to strong nuclear ERG immunostaining was also observed in thymoma (6.1%). Weak to moderate ERG staining was found in a small number of squamous cell carcinomas of the skin, squamous carcinomas of the lung, malignant mesotheliomas, carcinosarcomas of the uterus, gastrointestinal stromal tumours, hepatocellular carcinomas, teratomas of the testis, anaplastic carcinomas of the thyroid, giant cell tumours of the tendon sheath and benign fibrous histiocytomas of the skin. ERG overexpression was not seen in 8886 samples from 132 other tumour types and subtypes. Within normal tissues, immunohistochemically detectable ERG overexpression was restricted to endothelial cells and subsets of lymphocytes.

Conclusions: The high specificity of ERG expression in both normal and neoplastic tissues suggests a very narrow biological role for ERG in highly selected tissues.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Trans-Activators / analysis*
  • Trans-Activators / biosynthesis
  • Transcriptional Regulator ERG
  • Transcriptome


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • ERG protein, human
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcriptional Regulator ERG