SMARCB1-deficient Tumors of Childhood: A Practical Guide

Pediatr Dev Pathol. 2018 Jan-Feb;21(1):6-28. doi: 10.1177/1093526617749671. Epub 2017 Dec 27.


The SMARCB1 gene ( INI1, BAF47) is a member of the SWItch/Sucrose Non-Fermentable (SWI/SNF) chromatin remodeling complex, involved in the epigenetic regulation of gene transcription. SMARCB1 acts as a tumor suppressor gene, and loss of function of both alleles gives rise to SMARCB1-deficient tumors. The prototypical SMARCB1-deficient tumor is the malignant rhabdoid tumor (MRT) which was first described in the kidney but also occurs in soft tissue, viscera, and the brain (where it is referred to as atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor or AT/RT). These are overwhelmingly tumors of the very young, and most follow an aggressive and ultimately lethal course. Morphologically, most but not all contain a population of "rhabdoid" cells, which are large cells with abundant cytoplasm, perinuclear spherical inclusions, and eccentric vesicular nuclei with large inclusion-like nucleoli. MRT immunohistochemistry reveals complete loss of SMARCB1 nuclear expression, and molecular analysis confirms biallelic SMARCB1 inactivation in the vast majority. Rare AT/RTs have loss of SMARCA4, another SWI/SNF member, rather than SMARCB1. With the widespread adoption of SMARCB1 immunohistochemistry, an increasing number of SMARCB1-deficient tumors outside of the MRT-AT/RT spectrum have been described. In addition to MRT and AT/RT, pediatric tumors with complete loss of SMARCB1 expression include cribriform neuroepithelial tumor, renal medullary carcinoma, and epithelioid sarcoma. Tumors with variable loss of SMARCB1 expression include subsets of epithelioid malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, schwannomas arising in schwannomatosis, subsets of chordomas, myoepithelial carcinomas, and sinonasal carcinomas. Variable and reduced expression of SMARCB1 is characteristic of synovial sarcoma. In this review, the historical background, clinical characteristics, morphology, immunohistochemical features, and molecular genetics most germane to these tumors are summarized. In addition, familial occurrence of these tumors (the rhabdoid tumor predisposition syndrome) is discussed. It is hoped that this review may provide practical guidance to pathologists encountering tumors that have altered expression of SMARCB1.

Keywords: SMARCB1; immunohistochemistry; oncology; pediatric neoplasms; rhabdoid.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / deficiency*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Carcinoma / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Child
  • Chordoma / diagnosis
  • Chordoma / genetics
  • Chordoma / metabolism
  • Chordoma / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Kidney Neoplasms / genetics
  • Kidney Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms, Neuroepithelial / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms, Neuroepithelial / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Neuroepithelial / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Neuroepithelial / pathology
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / genetics
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Nerve Sheath Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neurilemmoma / diagnosis
  • Neurilemmoma / genetics
  • Neurilemmoma / metabolism
  • Neurilemmoma / pathology
  • Rhabdoid Tumor / diagnosis
  • Rhabdoid Tumor / genetics
  • Rhabdoid Tumor / metabolism
  • Rhabdoid Tumor / pathology
  • SMARCB1 Protein / deficiency*
  • SMARCB1 Protein / genetics
  • Sarcoma / diagnosis
  • Sarcoma / genetics
  • Sarcoma / metabolism
  • Sarcoma / pathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • SMARCB1 Protein
  • SMARCB1 protein, human