Monoclonal origins of malignant mixed tumors (carcinosarcomas). Evidence for a divergent histogenesis

Am J Surg Pathol. 1996 Mar;20(3):277-85. doi: 10.1097/00000478-199603000-00003.


Malignant mixed tumors (carcinosarcomas) are examples of unusual neoplasms whose occurrences have been observed in increasingly diverse sites but whose pathogenesis remains a complete mystery. Two antithetical hypotheses that have been advanced to explain the histogenesis of these tumors include the convergence hypothesis, which proposes an origin from two or more stem cells (multiclonal hypothesis), and the divergence hypothesis, which proposes an origin from a single totipotential stem cell that differentiates into separate epithelial and mesenchymal directions (monoclonal hypothesis). To test these hypotheses, a novel strategy for the determination of clonality from as few as 100 tumor cells obtained by enzymatic digestion of either fresh or formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues and cell sorting was used that exhibited the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in amplifying a 511-bp region located within the first intron of the human hypoxanthine phosphoribosyl transferase gene, a site that contains inactive X chromosomal obligately methylated HpaII/MspI sites and single-base allelic polymorphisms in 5% females. Carcinoma cells gated on the basis of fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-anti-cytokeratin and sarcoma cells gated on the basis of FITC-antivimentin or FITC-anti-desmin were sorted to homogeneity on FACSTAR and then subjected to genomic DNA extraction and Hpa II digestion before PCR amplification and subsequent analysis of the product on denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. The comigrations of the single homoduplexes generated from both the carcinoma cells and sarcoma cells in six different malignant mixed tumors obtained from four different organs indicated clonal identity and monoclonality in all cases. These findings of monoclonality were confirmed independently by two other methods of clonality determination. The findings of a monoclonal origin of carcinosarcomas support the single totipotential stem-cell-divergence hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Carcinosarcoma / pathology*
  • Electrophoresis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Probes / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Molecular Probes