Type, Frequency, and Spatial Distribution of Immune Cell Infiltrates in CNS Germinomas: Evidence for Inflammatory and Immunosuppressive Mechanisms

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2018 Feb 1;77(2):119-127. doi: 10.1093/jnen/nlx106.


Central nervous system germinomas are characterized by a massive immune cell infiltrate. We systematically characterized these immune cells in 28 germinomas by immunophenotyping and image analysis. mRNA expression was analyzed by Nanostring technology and in situ RNA hybridization. Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) were composed of 61.8% ± 3.1% (mean ± SE) CD3-positive T cells, including 45.2% ± 3.5% of CD4-positive T-helper cells, 23.4% ± 1.5% of CD8-positive cytotoxic T cells, 5.5% ± 0.9% of FoxP3-positive regulatory T cells, and 11.9% ±1.3% PD-1-positive TILs. B cells accounted for 35.8% ± 2.9% of TILs and plasma cells for 9.3% ± 1.6%. Tumor-associated macrophages consisted of clusters of activated PD-L1-positive macrophages and interspersed anti-inflammatory macrophages expressing CD163. Germinoma cells did not express PD-L1. Expression of genes encoding immune cell markers and cytokines was high and comparable to mRNA levels in lymph node tissue. IFNG and IL10 mRNA was detected in subfractions of TILs and in PD-L1-positive macrophages. Taken together, the strong immune reaction observed in germinomas involves inflammatory as well as various suppressive mechanisms. Expression of PD-1 and PD-L1 and infiltration of cytotoxic T cells are biomarkers predictive of response to anti-PD-1/PD-L1 therapies, constituting a rationale for possible novel treatment approaches.

Keywords: Adaptive immune response; Germinoma; PD-L1; Tumor associated macrophages; Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms* / complications
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Germinoma* / complications
  • Germinoma* / immunology
  • Germinoma* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / pathology*
  • Male
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / pathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Antigens, CD
  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • interferon regulatory factor-4