Keratin 17-positive Civatte bodies in oral lichen planus-distribution variety, diagnostic significance and histopathogenesis

Sci Rep. 2020 Sep 3;10(1):14586. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-71496-8.


Although emergence of keratin 17 (K17) and reciprocal loss of K13 are immunohistochemical hallmarks for oral mucosal malignancy, we report here findings of K17-positive (+) speckles, possibly equivalent to Civatte bodies, in benign oral lichen planus. Sixty-two biopsy samples from oral lichen planus cases were subjected to immunohistochemical examinations to analyze the distribution as well as histopathogenesis of Civatte bodies. K17 was irregularly positive among oral lichen planus-affected epithelial cells, and K17-positive (+) filamentous structures were irregularly distributed within the cytoplasm in confocal images. K17+ speckles were identified as Civatte bodies, and they were mainly distributed in the interface between epithelial cells and lymphocytic infiltrates (type A, 52.8%), followed by distribution within the epithelial layer (type B, 24.7%) or within the lamina propria with lymphocytic infiltration (type C, 22.5%). Apoptotic figures were often engulfed by macrophages and clearly distinguished from Civatte bodies by the presence TUNEL signals. These results indicate that K17 is a sensitive immunohistochemical marker for Civatte bodies and useful for differential diagnosis of oral lichen planus from other oral mucosal lesions. Civatte bodies are generated from denucleation of K17+ epithelial cells during the process of cell death via dyskeratosis, which is possibly related to blood capillary collapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colloids / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Keratin-17 / metabolism*
  • Lichen Planus, Oral / metabolism
  • Lichen Planus, Oral / pathology*
  • Mouth Mucosa / metabolism
  • Mouth Mucosa / pathology*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / pathology*


  • Colloids
  • KRT17 protein, human
  • Keratin-17