Loss of H3K27me3 Expression Is a Highly Sensitive Marker for Sporadic and Radiation-induced MPNST

Am J Surg Pathol. 2016 Apr;40(4):479-89. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0000000000000564.


Most malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs) exhibit combined inactivation of NF1, CDKN2A, and polycomb repressive complex 2 component genes (Embryonic Ectoderm Development [EED] and Suppressor of Zeste 12 [SUZ12]). Mutations in EED and SUZ12 induce loss of trimethylation at lysine 27 of histone 3 (H3K27me3), with subsequent aberrant transcriptional activation of polycomb repressive complex 2-repressed homeobox master regulators. These findings prompted us to investigate the performance of an anti-H3K27me3 monoclonal antibody clone C36B11 as an immunohistochemical marker for MPNSTs. We assessed the C36B11 reactivity pattern in a pathologically and genetically well-characterized cohort of 68 MPNSTs, spanning various clinical presentations, such as type 1 neurofibromatosis (NF1), radiotherapy, and sporadic MPNSTs. We found that 69% (n=47) of all MPNSTs demonstrated loss of H3K27me3 expression, with 42 (61%) showing complete loss and 5 (7%) showing partial loss, whereas 31% (n=21) retained H3K27me3 expression. Among the NF1-related high-grade MPNSTs, 60% demonstrated loss of expression. In contrast, the majority of both sporadic (95%) and radiotherapy-related (91%) MPNSTs showed loss of H3K27me3 expression. Two of the 3 low-grade MPNSTs and all neurofibromas showed retained expression. Furthermore, all 5 epithelioid MPNSTs retained H3K27me3 labeling. The specificity of H3K27me3 loss as a marker for MPNSTs was studied by testing a large spectrum of lesions included in MPNST differential diagnosis, such as spindle/desmoplastic melanomas, synovial sarcomas, myoepithelial tumors, and other mesenchymal neoplasms, all of which retained expression of H3K27me3. We conclude that immunohistochemical analysis of H3K27me3 has good sensitivity and robust specificity for the diagnosis of MPNST, particularly outside of NF1 clinical history, which represents the most challenging diagnostic setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA Methylation
  • Female
  • Histones
  • Humans
  • Jumonji Domain-Containing Histone Demethylases / analysis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurilemmoma / diagnosis*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Histones
  • Jumonji Domain-Containing Histone Demethylases
  • KDM6B protein, human