The Stem-Cell Profile of Ovarian Surface Epithelium Is Reproduced in the Oviductal Fimbriae, With Increased Stem-Cell Marker Density in Distal Parts of the Fimbriae

Int J Gynecol Pathol. 2013 Sep;32(5):444-53. doi: 10.1097/PGP.0b013e3182800ad5.


High-grade serous ovarian carcinomas are the most common and most lethal ovarian cancers, but their histologic origin is still controversial. Current evidence suggests that they may originate in the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) and/or epithelium of oviductal fimbriae (FE). To further investigate this question we compared the stem-cell profiles of these epithelia. Formalin-fixed sections of normal FE (N=21) and ovaries (N=21) were stained immunohistochemically for the stem-cell markers NANOG, SFRP1, LHX9, ALDH1A1, and ALDH1A2. All markers were detected in both OSE and FE. A total of 75% to 100% of surface OSE expressed all markers except ALDH1A1, which occurred in about 25% of cells. Among epithelial inclusion cysts with flat-to-cuboidal epithelium, resembling OSE, ALDH1A1 was significantly increased, whereas SFRP1 was reduced compared with surface OSE, suggesting an increased trend towards malignant transformation. Similarly, among cysts lined by columnar cells resembling FE, SFRP1 expression was low, whereas ALDH1A1 approached 100% of the cysts. FE exhibited considerable variation between and within specimens. In about half of the samples, SFRP1 and NANOG were detected in ≤25% FE. The most widespread markers were ALDH1A1 and ALDH1A2. The highest proportion of all markers occurred in the distal parts of the FE, the site of the putative ovarian cancer precursors. Marker expression in tubal ampullae was low or absent except for ALDH1A1 and ALDH1A2. The results provide an explanation for the characteristic distal location of fimbrial high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma precursor lesions, and indicate that both OSE and FE have the capacity to undergo neoplastic transformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase 1
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Carcinoma / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Fallopian Tubes / metabolism
  • Fallopian Tubes / pathology*
  • Female
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • LIM-Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Nanog Homeobox Protein
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / pathology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Ovary / metabolism
  • Ovary / pathology*
  • Retinal Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase 1
  • Biomarkers
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • LHX9 protein, human
  • LIM-Homeodomain Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • NANOG protein, human
  • Nanog Homeobox Protein
  • SFRP1 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase
  • ALDH1A1 protein, human
  • ALDH1A2 protein, human
  • Retinal Dehydrogenase