Role of the Immunohistochemical ZEB1 Expression in Uterine Mesenchymal Neoplasms

Int J Surg Pathol. 2022 Aug;30(5):520-527. doi: 10.1177/10668969211070180. Epub 2022 Jan 7.


The distinction of mesenchymal tumors of the uterus is a frequent diagnostic challenge in gynecologic pathology. Especially, distinguishing low-grade endometrial stromal sarcoma (ESS) from leiomyoma or distinguishing low-grade ESS from high-grade ESS can be difficult. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a physiological and pathological process in which epithelial cells lose their morphological features, become elongated and acquire mesenchymal traits. The signaling pathway of Zinc finger E-box binding homeobox 1 (ZEB1) is one of the most significant pathways involved in the EMT process and it has a crucial role in cancer progression, metastasis, and therapy resistance. We studied a series of 69 uterine mesenchymal neoplasms including 18 endometrial stromal sarcomas (10 cases of low grade and 8 cases of high grade endometrial stromal sarcomas), 26 leiomyosarcomas (8 cases of grade 1 and 19 cases of grade 2-3 leiomyosarcomas), 15 leiomyomas, and 10 rhabdomyosarcomas, using an antibody ZEB1. We graded the leiomyosarcomas depending on the FNCLCC grading system. It was observed that leiomyosarcoma was more intensely stained with ZEB1 than leiomyoma (P < 0.001) and high-grade ESS was significantly more intensely stained with ZEB1 protein than low-grade ESS (P < 0.004). It also was observed that high-grade leiomyosarcoma was significantly more intensely stained with ZEB1 protein than low-grade leiomyosarcoma (P < 0.000). Our data suggest that Zeb1 can be used to differentiate high-grade sarcomas from their low-grade counterparts as well as benign and malignant smooth muscle tumors of the uterus.

Keywords: EMT; ZEB1; mesenchymal neoplasms; sarcoma; uterus.

MeSH terms

  • Endometrial Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Endometrial Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Endometrial Stromal Tumors / diagnosis
  • Endometrial Stromal Tumors / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leiomyoma / diagnosis
  • Leiomyoma / pathology
  • Leiomyosarcoma / diagnosis
  • Leiomyosarcoma / pathology
  • Sarcoma, Endometrial Stromal / pathology
  • Uterine Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Uterine Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1* / genetics


  • ZEB1 protein, human
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1