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Mod Pathol. 2004 May;17(5):547-52.

Utility of the immunohistochemical detection of FLI-1 expression in round cell and vascular neoplasm using a monoclonal antibody.

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Department of Pathology, Regional Hospital, Treviso, Italy.


FLI-1 nuclear transcription factor has been proposed as a useful tool in the differential diagnosis of small round cell sarcomas. Recently, FLI-1 has been reported as the first nuclear marker of endothelial differentiation. However, its clinical use has been hampered by major interpretation problems, due to the presence of background staining as well as staining variation between different lots of the same antiserum. In this study, a novel monoclonal antibody raised against the carboxyl terminal of the FLI-1 protein (clone GI146-222, BD Pharmingen) was tested in a series of small round cell and vascular neoplasms. Furthermore, in order to assess FLI-1 specificity, we analyzed its expression in a series of common epithelial and nonepithelial malignancies. In total, 15 Ewing's sarcomas, 10 rhabdomyosarcomas, 5 desmoplastic small round cell tumors, 10 synovial sarcomas, 10 high-grade pleomorphic sarcomas, 10 malignant melanomas, 5 Merkel's carcinomas, 10 colonic adenocarcinomas, 10 breast carcinomas, 10 lung adenocarcinomas, 20 angiosarcomas, 5 epithelioid hemangioendotheliomas, 10 Kaposi's sarcomas and 10 benign hemangiomas, were stained. A strong FLI-1 immunoreactivity was detected in all Ewing's sarcomas and vascular neoplasms, highlighting the high sensitivity of FLI-1 monoclonal antibody. However, 2/5 Merkel's carcinomas and 1/10 malignant melanomas showed a strong nuclear immunostaining, suggesting that FLI-1 may not be so helpful in the differential diagnosis of cutaneous Ewing's sarcoma. In addition, a weak immunoreactivity was found in 3/5 Merkel cell carcinomas, 3/10 synovial sarcomas, 5/10 malignant melanomas, 6/10 lung adenocarcinomas and in 1/10 breast carcinomas. In contrast, all the rhabdomyosarcomas, desmoplastic small round cell tumors, high-grade pleomorphic sarcomas and colonic adenocarcinomas tested were negative. Importantly, in contrast with previous studies, no background staining was observed. Our results indicate that FLI-1 monoclonal antibody can be reliably applied to the differential diagnosis of small round cell neoplasms of soft tissue, and confirm its important role as nuclear marker of endothelial differentiation, mainly helpful in those cases in which technical artifacts are seen by using the traditional membranous and cytoplasmic endothelial markers.

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