TFE3 break-apart FISH has a higher sensitivity for Xp11.2 translocation-associated renal cell carcinoma compared with TFE3 or cathepsin K immunohistochemical staining alone: Expanding the morphologic spectrum

Qiu Rao, Sean R. Williamson, Shaobo Zhang, John N. Eble, David J. Grignon, Mingsheng Wang, Xiao Jun Zhou, Wenbin Huang, Puay Hoon Tan, Gregory T. MacLennan, Liang Cheng

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Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) associated with Xp11.2 translocation is uncommon, characterized by several different translocations involving the TFE3 gene. We assessed the utility of break-apart fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) in establishing the diagnosis for suspected or unclassified cases with negative or equivocal TFE3 immunostaining by analyzing 24 renal cancers with break-apart TFE3 FISH and comparing the molecular findings with the results of TFE3 and cathepsin K immunostaining in the same tumors. Ten tumors were originally diagnosed as Xp11.2 RCC on the basis of positive TFE3 immunostaining, and 14 were originally considered unclassified RCCs with negative or equivocal TFE3 staining, but with a range of features suspicious for Xp11.2 RCC. Seventeen cases showed TFE3 rearrangement associated with Xp11.2 translocation by FISH, including all 13 tumors with moderate or strong TFE3 (n=10) or cathepsin K (n=7) immunoreactivity. FISH-positive cases showed negative or equivocal immunoreactivity for TFE3 or cathepsin K in 7 and 10 tumors, respectively (both=3). None had positive immunohistochemistry but negative FISH. Morphologic features were typical for Xp11.2 RCC in 10/17 tumors. Unusual features included 1 melanotic Xp11.2 renal cancer, 1 tumor with mixed features of Xp11.2 RCC and clear cell RCC, and other tumors mimicking clear cell RCC, multilocular cystic RCC, or high-grade urothelial carcinoma. Morphology mimicking high-grade urothelial carcinoma has not been previously reported in these tumors. Psammoma bodies, hyalinized stroma, and intracellular pigment were preferentially identified in FISH-positive cases compared with FISH-negative cases. Our results support the clinical application of a TFE3 break-apart FISH assay for diagnosis and confirmation of Xp11.2 RCC and further expand the histopathologic spectrum of these neoplasms to include tumors with unusual features. A renal tumor with pathologic or clinical features highly suggestive of translocation-associated RCC but exhibiting negative or equivocal TFE3 immunostaining should be evaluated by TFE3 FISH assay to fully assess this possibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)804-815
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2013



  • Cathepsin K
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH)
  • Kidney
  • Molecular genetics
  • TFE3
  • Translocation
  • Unclassified renal cell carcinoma
  • Xp11.2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Surgery

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