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Am J Pathol. 1995 Nov;147(5):1383-97.

Uroplakins, specific membrane proteins of urothelial umbrella cells, as histological markers of metastatic transitional cell carcinomas.

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Institutes of Pathology, University of Mainz Medical School, Germany.


Uroplakins (UPs) Ia, Ib, II, and III, transmembrane proteins constituting the asymmetrical unit membrane of urothelial umbrella cells, are the first specific urothelial differentiation markers described. We investigated the presence and localization patterns of UPs in various human carcinomas by applying immunohistochemistry (avidin-biotin-peroxidase complex method), using rabbit antibodies against UPs II and III, to paraffin sections. Positive reactions for UP III (sometimes very focal) were noted in 14 of the 16 papillary noninvasive transitional cell carcinomas (TCCs) (88%), 29 of the 55 invasive TCCs (53%), and 23 of the 35 TCC metastases (66%). Different localization patterns of UPs could be distinguished, including superficial membrane staining like that found in normal umbrella cells (in papillary carcinoma), luminal (microluminal) membrane staining (in papillary and invasive carcinoma), and, against expectations, peripheral membrane staining (in invasive carcinoma). Non-TCC carcinomas of various origins (n = 177) were consistently negative for UPs. The presence of UPs in metastatic TCCs represents a prime example of even advanced tumor progression being compatible with the (focal) expression of highly specialized differentiation repertoires. Although of only medium-grade sensitivity, UPs do seem to be highly specific urothelial lineage markers, thus operating up interesting histodiagnostic possibilities in cases of carcinoma metastases of uncertain origin.

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