Synaptophysin staining in normal brain: importance for diagnosis of ganglioglioma

Am J Surg Pathol. 1998 May;22(5):550-6. doi: 10.1097/00000478-199805000-00005.


Neuronal and mixed glioneuronal tumors traditionally have comprised a very small percentage of intrinsic central nervous system neoplasms, although they are somewhat more common among juvenile brain tumors and in the temporal lobe. Neuronal differentiation increasingly is recognized in pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma, intraventricular neurocytoma, and subependymal giant cell astrocytoma. However, the diagnostic distinctions between subtle ganglioglioma (with rare neurons) and infiltrating glioma with entrapped neurons and between infiltrating oligodendroglioma and parenchymal neurocytoma are problematic but may be clinically important. Recently, it was proposed that perisomatic synaptophysin immunostaining in the human central nervous system reliably and selectively discriminates neoplastic from nonneoplastic neurons. Using this criterion, the number of brain stem and spinal cord gangliogliomas could be increased substantially. We canvassed synaptophysin immunostaining patterns in the normal brain stem, cerebellum, and forebrain, and found that synaptophysin-positive neurons are distributed broadly in the normal human brain. In disturbed neocortical tissue, such as near vascular malformations, synaptophysin-positive neurons and irregular white-matter synaptophysin immunostaining are visualized. Although synaptophysin-positive neurons are found in gangliogliomas and archipelagos of synaptophysin reactivity are found in neurocytomas, these patterns clearly are not pathognomonic for glioneuronal tumors and must be interpreted with caution whenever other histologic or ultrastructural evidence of neuronal differentiation is lacking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Brain Stem / embryology
  • Brain Stem / metabolism
  • Cerebellum / embryology
  • Cerebellum / metabolism
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Ganglioglioma / diagnosis
  • Ganglioglioma / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prosencephalon / embryology
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism
  • Synaptophysin / metabolism*


  • Synaptophysin