Cellular origin and differentiation of renal carcinomas. A fluorescence microscopic study with kidney-specific antibodies, antiintermediate filament antibodies, and lectins

Lab Invest. 1983 Sep;49(3):317-26.


Frozen sections of human renal carcinomas were studied in indirect immunofluorescence using antibodies against intermediate filaments of cytokeratin, desmin and vimentin type, and against proximal tubular brush border and distal tubular Tamm-Horsfall glycoprotein antigens, as well as with fluorochrome-labeled lectins in an attempt to study the origin and stage of differentiation of renal carcinomas. Eighty per cent of the renal carcinomas expressed the brush border antigens, whereas the Tamm-Horsfall glycoprotein could not be found. Antibodies against epidermal cytokeratins reacted only with collecting ducts in normal kidney, whereas antibodies against cytokeratins of Madin-Darby canine kidney epithelial cell line also reacted with glomerular and tubular epithelium. In 93% of the carcinomas tumor cells showed reactivity with both types of antikeratin antibodies. Vimentin, the cytoskeletal protein of mesenchymal cells, was present in the carcinoma cells of 53% of the tumors, although it was not present in normal tubular epithelium. Moreover, vimentin was expressed together with cytokeratin in the carcinoma cells in 57% of the keratin-positive samples as judged by double immunostaining, whereas the muscle type of intermediate filament protein, desmin, was not seen in the malignant cells. Binding sites for Lotus tetragonolobus agglutinin and soybean agglutinin, normally present in the cells of proximal tubules, were lacking or only faintly detectable in the neoplastic cells. Dolichos biflorus agglutinin, normally present in collecting ducts, was not detected in the tumors. The results show that most renal carcinomas express cytokeratin antigens as a sign of their epithelial origin and also show characteristics of proximal tubular cells. On the other hand, the results indicate that lectin-binding sites typical for normal differentiated tubular cells are profoundly modified in renal carcinomas. Ulex europaeus agglutinin did not bind to the malignant cells but decorated the endothelial cells of the tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens / analysis
  • Carcinoma / immunology
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Desmin
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique*
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / immunology
  • Keratins / immunology
  • Kidney Neoplasms / immunology
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Lectins
  • Microvilli / immunology
  • Receptors, Mitogen / analysis
  • Vimentin


  • Antigens
  • Desmin
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Lectins
  • Receptors, Mitogen
  • Vimentin
  • Keratins