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Am J Pathol. 1991 Aug;139(2):297-304.

Polysialic acid of the neural cell adhesion molecule distinguishes small cell lung carcinoma from carcinoids.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Pathology, University of Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


The neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) exists in various types of neuroendocrine cells and their tumors. A typical feature of NCAM is polysialic acid, of which the chain length is developmentally regulated. The authors have performed a comparative immunohistochemical study on small cell lung carcinomas and bronchial as well as gastrointestinal carcinoids with the monoclonal antibody (MAb) 735 reactive with the long-chain form of polysialic acid. The small cell lung carcinomas, irrespective of their histological type, were positive for polysialic acid. Metastatic tumor cell complexes also exhibited immunostaining. The tumor cell-surface-associated immunostaining for polysialic acid was sensitive to endoneuraminidase. The mature and atypical bronchial and gastrointestinal carcinoids were not immunoreactive for polysialic acid. Cytoplasmic staining in groups of cells of carcinoids (2 of 28 cases) was due to nonspecific antibody binding, which could be prevented by increased ion strength. These data indicate that neuroendocrine tumors of the lung can be distinguished by their content of highly sialylated NCAM.

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