Succinate dehydrogenase deficient gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) - a review

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2014 Aug:53:514-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2014.05.033. Epub 2014 Jun 2.


Loss of function of the succinate dehydrogenase complex characterizes a rare group of human tumors including some gastrointestinal stromal tumors, paragangliomas, renal carcinomas, and pituitary adenomas, and these can all be characterized as SDH-deficient tumors. Approximately 7.5% of gastric gastrointestinal stromal tumors are SDH-deficient and not driven by KIT/PDGFRA mutations, as are most other GISTs. The occurrence of SDH-deficient GISTs is restricted to stomach, and they typically occur in children and young adults representing a spectrum of clinical behavior from indolent to progressive. Slow progression is a common feature even after metastatic spread has taken place, and many patients live years with metastases. SDH-deficient GISTs have characteristic morphologic features including multinodular gastric wall involvement, often multiple separate tumors, common lymphovascular invasion, and occasional lymph node metastases. Diagnostic is the loss of succinate dehydrogenase subunit B (SDHB) from the tumor cells and this can be practically assessed by immunohistochemistry. SDHA is lost in cases associated with SDHA mutations. Approximately half of the patients have SDH subunit gene mutations, often germline and most commonly A (30%), and B, C or D (together 20%), with both alleles inactivated in the tumor cells according to the classic tumor suppressor gene model. Half of the cases are not associated with SDH-mutations and epigenetic silencing of the SDH complex is the possible pathogenesis. Extensive genomic methylation has been observed in these tumors, which is in contrast with other GISTs. SDH-loss causes succinate accumulation and activation of pseudohypoxia signaling via overexpression of HIF-proteins. Activation of insulin-like growth factor 1-signaling is also typical of these tumors. SDH-deficient GISTs are a unique group of GISTs with an energy metabolism defect as the key oncogenic mechanism. This article is part of a Directed Issue entitled: Rare Cancers.

Keywords: GIST; Gastrointestinal stromal tumor; SDH-complex; SDHA; SDHB.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Electron Transport Complex II / deficiency
  • Electron Transport Complex II / genetics*
  • Energy Metabolism / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / enzymology
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / genetics*
  • Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors / pathology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / deficiency
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Somatomedins / metabolism
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / deficiency
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / genetics*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • SDHC protein, human
  • SDHD protein, human
  • Somatomedins
  • Electron Transport Complex II
  • SDHA protein, human
  • SDHB protein, human
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase