H3K27me3 immunostaining is diagnostic and prognostic in diffuse gliomas with oligodendroglial or mixed oligoastrocytic morphology

Virchows Arch. 2021 Nov;479(5):987-996. doi: 10.1007/s00428-021-03134-1. Epub 2021 Jun 24.


Oligodendroglioma is defined by IDH mutation and 1p/19q codeletion. The latter is mutually exclusive to ATRX immunohistochemical loss and has been recently associated with the loss of H3K27me3 immunostaining. We aimed to assess the diagnostic and prognostic value of H3K27me3 immuno-expression in diffuse gliomas with oligodendroglial or mixed oligoastrocytic morphology. H3K27me3 immunostaining was performed in 69 diffuse gliomas with oligodendroglial (n = 62) or oligoastrocytic (n = 7) morphology. The integration with routinely assessed IDH mutations, ATRX immunostaining, and 1p/19q codeletion classified these cases as 60 oligodendroglial and 9 astrocytic. H3K27me3 was lost in 58/60 oligodendrogliomas with retained (n = 47) or non-conclusive (n = 11) ATRX staining, 3/6 IDH-mutant astrocytomas with ATRX loss, and 3/3 IDH-wt astrocytomas. H3K27me3 was retained in 2/60 oligodendrogliomas with retained ATRX, and in 3/6 IDH-mutant astrocytomas, two of which had lost and one retained ATRX. The combination of H3K27me3 and ATRX immunostainings with IDH mutational status correctly classified 55/69 (80%) cases. In IDH-mutant gliomas, ATRX loss indicates astrocytic phenotype, while ATRX retention and H3K27me3 loss identify oligodendroglial phenotype. Only 14 (20%) IDH-mutant cases with retained ATRX and H3K27me3 or inconclusive ATRX immunostaining would have requested 1p/19q codeletion testing to be classified. Furthermore, H3K27me3 retention was associated with significantly shorter relapse-free survival (P < 0.0001), independently from IDH mutation or 1p/19q codeletion (P < 0.005). Our data suggest that adding H3K27me3 immunostaining to the diagnostic workflow of diffuse gliomas with oligodendroglial or mixed morphology is useful for drastically reducing the number of cases requiring 1p/19q codeletion testing and providing relevant prognostic information.

Keywords: 1p/19q codeletion; Astrocytoma; H3K27me3; Oligodendroglioma; Recurrence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Astrocytoma / chemistry*
  • Astrocytoma / genetics
  • Astrocytoma / pathology
  • Astrocytoma / therapy
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy
  • Chromosome Deletion
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 1
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 19
  • Female
  • Histones / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry*
  • Isocitrate Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Oligodendroglioma / chemistry*
  • Oligodendroglioma / genetics
  • Oligodendroglioma / pathology
  • Oligodendroglioma / therapy
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Progression-Free Survival
  • Time Factors
  • X-linked Nuclear Protein / analysis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Histones
  • histone H3 trimethyl Lys4
  • IDH2 protein, human
  • Isocitrate Dehydrogenase
  • IDH1 protein, human
  • ATRX protein, human
  • X-linked Nuclear Protein