Succinate dehydrogenase (SDH)-deficient neoplasia

Histopathology. 2018 Jan;72(1):106-116. doi: 10.1111/his.13277.


The succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) complex is a key respiratory enzyme composed of four subunits: SDHA, SDHB, SDHC and SDHD. Remarkably, immunohistochemistry for SDHB becomes negative whenever there is bi-alleic inactivation of any component of SDH, which is very rare in the absence of syndromic disease. Therefore, loss of SDHB immunohistochemistry serves as a marker of syndromic disease, usually germline mutation of one of the SDH subunits. Tumours which show loss of SDHB expression are termed succinate dehydrogenase-deficient. In addition to loss of SDHB, tumours associated with SDHA mutation also show loss of SDHA expression. Fifteen per cent of pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma (PHEO/PGL) are associated with germline SDH mutation, and therefore SDH-deficient. We recommend screening SDHB immunohistochemistry for all PHEO/PGL. SDH-deficient gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) show distinctive features, including absent KIT proto-oncogene receptor tyrosine kinase/platelet-derived growth factor receptor A (KIT/PDGFRA) mutations [but positive staining for cKIT and DOG1], virtually exclusive gastric location, lobulated growth, multi-focality, a prognosis not predicted by size and mitotic rate, frequent metastasis to lymph nodes and primary resistance to imatinib therapy. Thirty per cent are associated with SDHA germline mutation and 50% are associated with SDHC epimutation (post-zygotic promoter hypermethylation) - the hallmark of the syndromic but non-hereditary Carney triad (SDH- deficient GIST, SDH-deficient paraganglioma and pulmonary chondroma). SDH-deficient renal carcinoma is newly recognized under the World Health Organization (WHO) 2016 classification and shows vacuolated eosinophilic cytoplasmic and cytoplasmic inclusions. It is particularly associated with SDHB mutation, although SDHC and SDHA mutation occur. SDH-deficient pituitary adenomas are recognized, but appear to be the least common SDH-deficient neoplasm.

Keywords: SDHA; SDHB; gastrointestinal stromal tumour; paraganglioma; succinate dehydrogenase-deficient.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary / enzymology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Mas
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase / deficiency*


  • MAS1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Mas
  • SDHD protein, human
  • Succinate Dehydrogenase