Histopathology of pineal germ cell tumors

Neurochirurgie. 2015 Apr-Jun;61(2-3):130-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuchi.2013.06.006. Epub 2014 Apr 13.


Germ cell tumors (GCTs) classically occur in gonads. However, they are the most frequent neoplasms in the pineal region. The pineal location of GCTs may be caused by the neoplastic transformation of a primordial germ cell that has mismigrated. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes 5 histological types of intracranial GCTs: germinoma and non-germinomatous tumors including embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac tumor, choriocarcinoma and mature or immature teratoma. Germinomas and teratomas are frequently encountered as pure tumors whereas the other types are mostly part of mixed GCTs. In this situation, the neuropathologist has to be able to identify each component of a GCT. When diagnosis is difficult, use of recent immunohistochemical markers such as OCT(octamer-binding transcription factor)3/4, Glypican 3, SALL(sal-like protein)4 may be required. OCT3/4 is helpful in the diagnosis of germinomas, Glypican 3 in the diagnosis of yolk sac tumors and SALL4 in the diagnosis of the germ cell nature of an intracranial tumor. When the germ cell nature of a pineal tumor is doubtful, the finding of an isochromosome 12p suggests the diagnosis of GCT. The final pathological report should always be confronted with the clinical data, especially the serum or cerebrospinal fluid levels of β-human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and alpha-fetoprotein.

Keywords: Anatomopathologie; Germ cell tumors; Glande pinéale; Histogenesis; Histogenèse; Pathology; Pineal gland; Tumeurs germinales.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Glypicans / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms, Germ Cell and Embryonal / pathology*
  • Pineal Gland / pathology*
  • Pinealoma / diagnosis
  • Pinealoma / pathology*
  • Teratoma / diagnosis
  • Teratoma / pathology*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • GPC3 protein, human
  • Glypicans