Positivity for GATA3 and TTF-1 (SPT24), and Negativity for Monoclonal PAX8 Expand the Biomarker Profile of the Solid Cell Nests of the Thyroid Gland

Endocr Pathol. 2018 Mar;29(1):49-58. doi: 10.1007/s12022-017-9511-6.


Solid cell nests (SCNs) are usually distinguished on conventional H&E-stained sections; however, the morphological heterogeneity in SCNs and hyperplasia of these ultimobranchial body remnants can mimic other diagnostic entities including but not limited to papillary microcarcinoma. In order to confirm the thyroid follicular epithelial origin and exclude the possibility of SCNs, most diagnosticians use immunohistochemical biomarkers of thyroid follicular epithelial cells and/or those of SCNs. While the expression profile of monoclonal PAX8 has not been reported previously in SCNs, the status of TTF-1 expression using the 8G7G3/1 clone has been inconsistent among several studies. Given the potential diagnostic pitfalls, this series investigated the expression profile of GATA3, monoclonal PAX8, and TTF-1 (SPT24), along with p63, p40, monoclonal calcitonin, monoclonal CEA, and HBME-1 in a tissue microarray (TMA) of 56 SCNs. SCNs were all diffusely and strongly positive for TTF-1 (SPT24), p63, and p40, and were negative for monoclonal PAX8 and calcitonin. Positivity for GATA3 and monoclonal CEA was identified in 41 (73.2%) and 36 (64.3%) of SCNs. In addition, 18 (32.1%) SCNs displayed HBME-1 reactivity. These findings expand the immunohistochemical correlates of SCNs by demonstrating positivity for GATA3 and TTF-1 (SPT24), and negativity for monoclonal PAX8. The identification of monoclonal CEA expression and HBME-1 in SCNs also underscores the limitations of these select biomarkers in the distinction of C cell proliferations and papillary microcarcinoma, respectively. The findings of this series also suggest that positivity for TTF-1 (SPT24) alone should not be used to confirm the thyroid follicular epithelial origin. Therefore, the combined use of TTF-1 (SPT24) and monoclonal PAX8 in association with p63 or p40 provides an accurate distinction of SCNs.

Keywords: GATA3; PAX8; Solid cell nest; TTF-1; Ultimobranchial body remnant; p40; p63.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / analysis
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor / analysis
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • PAX8 Transcription Factor / analysis
  • PAX8 Transcription Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology*
  • Transcription Factors / analysis
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Ultimobranchial Body / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor
  • GATA3 protein, human
  • PAX8 Transcription Factor
  • PAX8 protein, human
  • TTF1 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors