Strong Association of SYT-SSX Fusion Type and Morphologic Epithelial Differentiation in Synovial Sarcoma

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Abstract

Synovial sarcoma is characterized by a specific recurrent translocation t(X;18), resulting in either the SYT-SSX1 or SYT-SSX2 gene fusion. Because this is the primary genetic alteration in these tumors, we sought to identify the impact of molecular heterogeneity of the t(X;18) on cell proliferation, apoptosis, and epithelial differentiation in synovial sarcoma. Seventy-three patients with synovial sarcoma (18 biphasic, 55 monophasic) were selected on the basis of availability of tumor material for molecular and immunohistochemical analysis. Tumors were classified as biphasic on the basis of morphologic glandular differentiation. SYT-SSX fusion transcripts were examined by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction using tumor RNA extracted from frozen or paraffin-embedded tissue. Cell proliferation was assessed immunohistochemically by the Ki-67 labeling index. Apoptosis was analyzed immunohistochemically with BAX and BCL2 antibodies and by the TUNEL method. Immunohistochemical evidence of epithelial differentiation was assessed using antibodies to cytokeratins and epithelial membrane antigen. Approximately two thirds of the tumors had an SYT-SSX1 and one third had an SYT-SSX2 fusion transcript. There was a strong association between SYT-SSX fusion type and histologic subtype. All biphasic synovial sarcomas had the SYT-SSX1 fusion, whereas all tumors with SYT-SSX2 were of monophasic morphology. There was, however, no association between SYT-SSX fusion type and expression of cytokeratins and epithelial membrane antigen among monophasic tumors. Tumors with SYT-SSX2 had a significantly higher mean and median Ki-67 labeling index than those with SYT-SSX1, but a comparison of Ki-67 according to fusion type, histologic type, and sample source suggested that the main determinants of proliferation rate were the latter two factors. Specifically, monophasic tumors and metastatic tumors showed significantly higher Ki-67 scores. Apoptosis (by TUNEL) was rarely observed, consistent with prominent expression of the anti-apoptotic protein BCL2 in almost all cases. TUNEL, BCL2, and BAX results did not correlate with SYT-SSX fusion type. These data confirm the strong association of SYT-SSX fusion transcript type with morphologic but not immunophenotypic epithelial differentiation in synovial sarcoma.

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