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Most malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNST) are schwannian in nature. The pathologic features of MPNST with perineurial cell differentiation remain to be characterized. To determine the clinicopathologic, immunohistochemical, and ultrastructural characteristics of perineurial MPNST, 121 MPNST from the Mayo Clinic Tissue Registry were examined. Of these 23 spindle cell tumors with long processes disposed in whorls or storiform patterns, features typical of perineurioma, were studied. On the basis of immunohistochemistry (epithelial membrane antigen+/S-100-), 5 perineurial MPNST were identified among 23 tumors selected. These and two previously characterized perineurial MPNST are the subject of this study. None of seven tumors was associated with NF-1. Patients included five males and two females ranging in age from 11 to 83 years (mean, 45.7 years). The tumors measured 1.5 to 30 cm (mean, 9.1 cm) and arose in the extremities (two), trunk (two), face (one), mediastinum (one), and retroperitoneum (one). Only one tumor was nerve associated (phrenic nerve). All tumors were surgically removed. No encapsulation or neurofibroma components were noted. Necrosis was seen in three lesions. Four tumors were classified as high-grade malignant and three as low grade. Mitotic indices varied from 1 to 85/10 high-power fields (median, 16). Immunoreactivities included epithelial membrane antigen (100%), vimentin (100%), Leu-7 (57%), and CD34 (14%). Stains for S-100 protein, muscle markers, and cytokeratin were nonreactive. Ultrastructurally, perineurial-like cells were noted in three tumors and cells intermediate between perineurial and Schwann cells in one. Four tumors recurred and two metastasized; no deaths of disease were noted at follow-ups of 28 to 98 months (mean, 66.9). In conclusion, 4% of MPNST show perineurial cell differentiation. An NF-1 association has yet to be described. Nerve involvement is infrequent. Their immunophenotype (epithelial membrane antigen+/S-100-) frequently indicates ultrastructural perineurial differentiation. The prognosis of perineural MPNST appears to be more favorable than that of conventional MPNST.