INSM1 Expression Is Frequent in Primary Central Nervous System Neoplasms but Not in the Adult Brain Parenchyma

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2018 May 1;77(5):374-382. doi: 10.1093/jnen/nly014.


Tumors with a neuronal component comprise a small percentage of central nervous system (CNS) neoplasms overall, but the presence of neuronal differentiation has important diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic implications. Insulinoma-associated protein 1 (INSM1) is a transcription factor with strong nuclear immunostaining in neuroendocrine cells and neoplasms of neuroendocrine origin; however, its expression in the CNS in normal brain and in neoplastic cells has not been fully explored. Here, we present immunostaining results from a large number of archival CNS tissue specimens, including 416 tumors. Nuclear immunostaining for INSM1 was frequently seen in medulloblastomas (87%, n = 94). Diffuse nuclear INSM1 immunostaining was detected in all central neurocytomas and pituitary adenomas. Patchy to rare staining with INSM1 was also seen in other high-grade embryonal tumors and high-grade gliomas. In normal brain tissue, specific nuclear INSM1 immunohistochemical staining was only seen in early neuronal development. Notably, nuclear INSM1 staining was not seen in adult normal brain, including areas of gliosis. These findings indicate that nuclear INSM1 immunostaining may serve as a strong nuclear marker in the brain for neoplasms of neuroendocrine or immature neuronal differentiation, when used in concert with other immunostains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Brain Chemistry / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Embryonal / pathology
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Glioma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Medulloblastoma / genetics
  • Medulloblastoma / pathology
  • Neurocytoma / genetics
  • Neurocytoma / pathology
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / pathology
  • Repressor Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Repressor Proteins
  • INSM1 protein, human