Nuclear CRX and FOXJ1 Expression Differentiates Non–Germ Cell Pineal Region Tumors and Supports the Ependymal Differentiation of Papillary Tumor of the Pineal Region

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Papillary tumor of the pineal region (PTPR) is a neuroepithelial neoplasm first described in 2003. Despite the anatomic association of PTPR with the pineal gland, the features of these tumors resemble those of the ependymal circumventricular subcommissural organ (SCO) of the posterior third ventricle. Given the presumed distinct derivation of PTPR and pineal parenchymal tumors, we hypothesized that expression of lineage-specific transcription factors could distinguish these tumors and provide additional insight into the differentiation of PTPR. A broad series of pineal region samples was reviewed, including 7 benign pineal glands, 4 pineal cysts, 13 pineocytomas, 28 pineal parenchymal tumors of intermediate differentiation, 11 pineoblastomas, and 18 PTPR. All samples were evaluated by immunohistochemistry for expression of CRX, a master transcriptional regulator of photoreceptor differentiation expressed in pineal gland and retina and/or FOXJ1, a master transcriptional regulator of ciliogenesis expressed in normal ependymal cells and ependymal neoplasms. Diffuse nuclear CRX expression is present in 100% of pineal samples. FOXJ1 is negative in all pineal samples. CRX staining is present in 53% of PTPR, though expression is nearly always limited to rare cells. Diffuse nuclear FOXJ1 expression is present in 100% of PTPR. Fetal human SCO diffusely expressed FOXJ1 but was negative for CRX. Immunohistochemistry for FOXJ1 and CRX differentiates non–germ cell pineal region tumors with high sensitivity and specificity, including pineal parenchymal tumors and PTPR. Our findings support the hypothesis that PTPR have ependymal differentiation and are phenotypically more similar to SCO than pineal gland.

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