Get access

CD99 expression in Merkel cell carcinoma: a case series with an unusual paranuclear dot-like staining pattern


Samih Salama, MD FRCP(C)

Department of Pathology, McMaster University

St. Joseph's Healthcare, Charlton Campus

50 Charlton Ave. E.

Hamilton, ON

L8N 4A6, Canada

Tel: +905 521 2100 ext. 35006

Fax: +905 521 6192




Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare neuroendocrine cancer of the skin. The utility of CD99 (MIC-2) in the diagnosis of MCC has been previously studied, with reported rates of expression ranging from 13 to 55%. When specified, a membranous or cytoplasmic staining pattern was considered significant. Recent studies of CD99 have identified a paranuclear dot-like expression pattern in certain non-neuroendocrine pancreatic and colonic lesions. We recently noted paranuclear dot-like staining in several cases of MCC, including cases lacking cytokeratin 20 (CK20) expression.


Fourteen cases of MCC were stained with CK20 and CD99 antibody, and the pattern and intensity of staining were recorded. Seven cases of pulmonary small cell carcinoma (PSCC) and one case of primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET) were used for comparison.


All 14 cases of MCC showed at least focal CD99 staining, with both membranous and paranuclear dot-like staining patterns identified. CK20 staining was present in 12/14 cases, with the characteristic dot-like pattern identified. Four of seven cases of PSCC showed CD99 staining, with two showing a finely granular dot-like staining pattern.


We report an unusual pattern of paranuclear dot-like expression of CD99 in 14 cases of MCC, two of which did not express CK20. This previously unrecognized expression pattern may be of use in differentiating MCC from other cutaneous malignancies, especially when CK20 expression is limited or absent.