TdT expression in normal and neoplastic sebaceous cells

Histopathology. 2017 Dec;71(6):985-988. doi: 10.1111/his.13304. Epub 2017 Sep 19.


Aims: Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) is a DNA polymerase expressed in immature, normal and neoplastic, lymphoid or haematopoietic cells and in neuroendocrine carcinomas, such as Merkel cell carcinoma and small-cell carcinoma. It has not yet been described in cells of epithelial origin. After observing TdT immunoreactivity in normal sebaceous glands, we analysed its spectrum of expression in cases of sebaceous cell hyperplasia (SGH) and sebaceous cell neoplasm.

Methods and results: Twelve cases of SGH and three cases of other benign lesions, namely sebaceoma, sebaceous adenoma, and sebaceous naevus, along with four archived cases of sebaceous cell carcinoma (SC) were collected and stained with TdT antibody. In addition, tissue microarrays were constructed from 11 cases of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and 10 cases of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which had nine evaluable cases each, and, after carcinoma type confirmation with immunostaining for epithelial membrane antigen, TdT immunohistochemistry was performed. All cases of SGH and sebaceous cell neoplasm were positive for TdT. The staining intensity was variable, being often weak to moderate in a significant proportion of cells, apart from one case of SC and the case of sebaceous naevus, which were only focally positive. No BCCs and only one SCC showed immunoreactivity.

Conclusions: TdT protein can be found in cells of epithelial origin and specifically sebaceous cells, both benign and malignant. It can be hypothesized that this expression is due to sebaceous cell differentiation as a prelude to apoptosis and holocrine secretion. Additional studies are needed to further elucidate its biological role.

Keywords: TdT; basal cell carcinoma; sebaceous cell carcinoma; sebaceous gland; squamous cell carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / enzymology*
  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / enzymology*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / enzymology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • DNA Nucleotidylexotransferase / metabolism*
  • Epithelial Cells / enzymology
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia / enzymology
  • Hyperplasia / pathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mucin-1
  • Sebaceous Gland Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Sebaceous Gland Neoplasms / pathology
  • Sebaceous Glands / enzymology*
  • Sebaceous Glands / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology


  • Mucin-1
  • DNA Nucleotidylexotransferase