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Diagnostic criteria for neoplastic myoepithelial cells in pleomorphic adenomas and myoepitheliomas. Immunocytochemical detection of muscle-specific actin, cytokeratin 14, vimentin, and glial fibrillary acidic protein.

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Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Asahi University, Japan.



Markers for normal salivary gland myoepithelium were used to determine the extent of their expression in the neoplastic myoepithelial (nonluminal) cells of pleomorphic adenomas and then in the tumor cells in myoepitheliomas and to gather information necessary to establish diagnostic criteria, especially muscle actin expression, for myoepitheliomas.


Methanol/acetic acid-fixed and paraffin-embedded tissue was used to immunohistochemically study expression of intermediate and smooth-muscle actin filaments in nonluminal cells in 14 pleomorphic adenomas and to compare this to their expression in five myoepitheliomas.


In routine histologic sections, the morphologic variants of nonluminal tumor cells--spindle, stellate, polygonal, angular, and plasmacytoid--in pleomorphic adenoma mirror the spectrum of tumor cells in myoepitheliomas. Immunocytochemical similarities are also apparent. Two specific markers for myoepithelial cells in the normal salivary gland, muscle-specific actin and cytokeratin 14, were both variably, independently, and never uniformly expressed in nonluminal cells of pleomorphic adenoma and tumor cells in myoepitheliomas regardless of their morphology. Cytokeratin 14 in addition labels basal cells of excretory ducts. Both muscle-specific actin and cytokeratin 14 preferentially localized to single layers of periductal cells in pleomorphic adenomas, angular, polygonal, and plasmacytoid cells preferentially expressed cytokeratin 14. Similar patterns were noted in the three myoepitheliomas with reasonable expression of the two markers. Only isolated single cells or small groups of plasmacytoid cells in four pleomorphic adenomas with a significant component of these cells and the two plasmacytoid myoepitheliomas immunostained for muscle-specific actin and cytokeratin 14. In both tumor types, vimentin was nearly uniformly expressed in nonluminal tumor cells of all morphologic types, including plasmacytoid cells.


The range and transition of morphology of nonluminal cells in pleomorphic adenomas is reflected in myoepitheliomas. Incomplete or absent expression of the myoepithelial/basal cell markers, muscle-specific actin, and cytokeratin 14, and the general expression of vimentin is common to both tumors. Because these findings apply to the majority of plasmacytoid cells in pleomorphic adenomas, tumor cells with a similar morphology and immunoprofile are to be expected in myoepitheliomas; the term plasmacytoid myoepitheliomas is thus appropriate regardless of the presence or absence of muscle-specific actin.

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