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Am J Surg Pathol. 2001 Feb;25(2):197-204.

Analysis of microphthalmia transcription factor expression in normal tissues and tumors, and comparison of its expression with S-100 protein, gp100, and tyrosinase in desmoplastic malignant melanoma.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Microphthalmia transcription factor (Mitf) is a nuclear protein involved in the development of melanocytes and the regulation of melanin synthesis. Recent studies have suggested that Mitf may be a more sensitive and specific melanocyte marker than S-100 protein and gp100. However, there is insufficient knowledge on the specificity of Mitf, and a systematic examination of its use for the recognition of desmoplastic melanoma has not yet been performed. In this study, we compared the expression of Mitf with S-100 protein, gp100, and tyrosinase in 20 desmoplastic melanomas by using the antibodies D5 (anti-Mitf), anti-S100P, HMB-45 (anti-gp100), and T311 (anti-tyrosinase). All 20 melanomas were positive for S-100 protein, 7 were positive for Mitf, 6 for gp100, and 11 for tyrosinase. To examine the specificity of Mitf, a panel of normal tissue and 386 samples of miscellaneous tumors, including dermal and subcutaneous spindle cell lesions relevant for the differential diagnosis of desmoplastic melanoma, were examined by immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, normal tissue samples were tested for Mitf mRNA by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR). Immunoreactivity for Mitf was seen not only in melanocytes of normal skin, but also in macrophages, lymphocytes, fibroblasts, Schwann cells, and smooth muscle cells at various sites, and tumors derived thereof. Our results indicate that the antibody D5 lacks sufficient sensitivity and specificity for widespread diagnostic use. Especially in re-excisions, when immunohistochemistry is often needed to distinguish an inflamed scar tissue from tumor, the presence of immunopositive inflammatory cells and fibroblasts limits the diagnostic use of D5.

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