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Mod Pathol. 2007 Oct;20(10):1036-44. Epub 2007 Jul 20.

Apoptosis in spermatocytic and usual seminomas: a light microscopic and immunohistochemical study.

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Department of Pathology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.


Despite its alarming appearance, spermatocytic seminoma virtually never metastasizes. We hypothesized that this paradox may at least be partially related to increased apoptosis compared to metastasizing germ cell tumors since high expression of proapoptotic factors correlates with indolent behavior in other tumor systems, notably CD30-positive cutaneous lymphoma, another neoplasm where phenotype and behavior do not match. We therefore compared apoptosis and apoptotic regulators in 17 spermatocytic seminomas (2 with sarcoma) and 18 usual seminomas by light microscopy and using immunostains for caspase-3, p53, bcl-2, bcl-xL, FADD, FAS and survivin. We found significantly greater numbers of apoptotic cells and activated caspase-3-positive cells in spermatocytic seminoma compared to usual seminoma (P<0.01). There was over a 10-fold range in apoptotic cells in usual seminoma but only a 4-fold variation in spermatocytic seminoma. Spermatocytic seminoma had decreased p53 expression compared to usual seminoma, with marked variation in bcl-2 expression and increased FADD. The two sarcomas in spermatocytic seminoma, however, showed decreased apoptosis and caspase-3 reactivity, with upregulation of p53 and bcl-2 and decreased FADD expression. We conclude that apoptosis, caspase-3 and FADD expression are increased in spermatocytic seminoma compared to usual seminoma. Apoptotic parameters are decreased in sarcomatous transformation of spermatocytic seminoma. The increased apoptosis of spermatocytic seminoma, possibly mediated by FAS independent activation of the death receptor pathway, may provide some insight into its excellent prognosis. The variation in apoptosis of usual seminomas merits investigation as a prognostic parameter.

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