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The biological basis for manifestation of chemotherapy resistance in metastatic testicular germ cell tumors (GCT) remains obscure and is of particular clinical interest. In nonseminomatous GCT (NSGCT) the pluripotent embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells are the precursors of the manifold differentiated structures but also drive the malignant growth. They are known to be hypersensitive towards DNA-damaging agents and to express the embryonal transcription factor OCT4. We recently characterized EC cells that lack OCT4 expression and show cisplatin resistance. In the present, immunohistochemical study we analyzed the composition of NSGCT with the focus on such OCT4-negative EC cells using a NSGCT xenograft model as well as patient-derived NSGCT samples. In the xenograft model, the cisplatin-sensitive cell line H12.1 gives rise to xenografts where EC structures are mainly composed of OCT4-positive cells, whereas xenografts from the resistant cell line 1411HP exclusively comprise OCT4-negative EC areas. We found that post-chemotherapy residual metastatic tumors of patients can be comprised of exclusively OCT4-negative EC, whereas the matched testicular primary tumor harbors OCT4-positive EC. Thorough histological analyses revealed a few examples of such OCT4-negative EC cells also in the testicular primary tumor as well as in xenografts from the cisplatin-sensitive NSGCT-cell line. For these cells we propose an identity as early extraembryonal progenitor cells directly derived from OCT4-expressing EC cells. This challenges the use of the term EC cell. The data also support our hypothesis that malignant growth of resistant NSGCT may be driven by this cell type.


Thomas Mueller, Lutz Peter Mueller, Hans-Juergen Holzhausen, Ralf Witthuhn, Peter Albers, Hans-Joachim Schmoll. Histological evidence for the existence of germ cell tumor cells showing embryonal carcinoma morphology but lacking OCT4 expression and cisplatin sensitivity. Histochemistry and cell biology. 2010 Aug;134(2):197-204

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PMID: 20532795

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