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Virchows Arch. 1995;425(6):617-29.

Increased numbers of cytokeratin-positive interstitial reticulum cells (CIRC) in reactive, inflammatory and neoplastic lymphadenopathies: hyperplasia or induced expression?

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Rush Medical College, Chicago, IL 60612-3864.


A total of 291 enlarged lymph nodes showing a range of reactive-inflammatory processes, primary and metastatic neoplasms were studied to determine the distribution and immunoprofile of their cytokeratin-positive interstitial reticulum cells (CIRC) in comparison with normal nodes. In 258/291 nodes (89%), CIRC numbers were distinctly increased in the subcapsular, paracortical and, occasionally, in the medullary zones; often, these increased CIRC formed networks around follicles, sinuses and vessels. CIRC had comparatively small, irregularly shaped bodies and dendritic processes; occasionally, giant forms were noted. CIRC contained cytokeratins (CK) 8 and 18 but not 19, as shown by immunohistochemistry, and by gel electrophoresis with subsequent immunoblotting. They co-expressed vimentin consistently, alpha-smooth-muscle actin frequently, and desmin less frequently. They did not contain desmoplakins, Factor VIII, S-100, LCA, B and T lymphocyte- and macrophage-associated antigens, chromogranin A, synaptophysin or the A-80 glycoprotein. We found no clear correlation between the increased CIRC and given nodal disease processes. However, CIRC were most abundant in nodes free of but draining malignant tumours; bizarre CIRC assemblies were noted in HIV lymphadenopathy. CIRC appear to represent a subset of the so-called "fibroblastic reticulum cells" of lymph nodes. Their function remains undetermined; their increase in diverse lymphadenopathies suggests that they partake in nodal reactions to injury. It remains unclear whether the increase in CIRC relative number is due to proliferation or to CK gene induction processes but their presence and potential capability to undergo hyperplasia with dysplastic forms should alert pathologists to possible diagnostic pitfalls. In addition, we discuss that CIRC may undergo transformation and represent the "cell of origin" of certain CK-positive tumours restricted to lymph nodes.

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