Cytokeratin expression in smooth muscle and smooth muscle tumours


Address for correspondence: Dr K.C. Gatter, Nuffield Department of Pathology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.


The expression of cytokeratin intermediate filaments by a tumour has been accepted as evidence of an epithelial origin. Although there have been anecdotal reports of Cytokeratin expression within tissues and neoplasms of non-epithelial origin, particularly muscle, there have been no comprehensive studies of its frequency and distribution. In order to investigate this we have studied 51 cases of normal smooth muscle and benign and malignant smooth muscle tumours using a panel of monoclonal antibodies against a range of intermediate filaments (cytokeratins, desmin and vimentin). Cytokeratin expression was noted overall in 50% of normal, benign and malignant smooth muscle tissues. Such expression tended to have a focal or patchy distribution. No case expressed cytokeratins in the absence of both desmin and vimentin. The implication of these findings for diagnostic immunocytochemistry is that intermediate filaments alone are not completely reliable markers of tumour histogenesis and should be used as part of a larger panel of monoclonal antibodies.