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12.02.2019 | Original Article

β-Catenin nuclear expression discriminates deep penetrating nevi from other cutaneous melanocytic tumors

Virchows Archiv
Arnaud de la Fouchardière, Claire Caillot, Julien Jacquemus, Emeline Durieux, Aurélie Houlier, Véronique Haddad, Daniel Pissaloux
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Recent advances in genomics have improved the molecular classification of cutaneous melanocytic tumors. Among them, deep penetrating nevi (DPN) and plexiform nevi have been linked to joint activation of the MAP kinase and dysregulation of the β-catenin pathways. Immunohistochemical studies have confirmed cytoplasmic and nuclear expression of β-catenin and its downstream effector cyclin D1 in these tumors. We assessed nuclear β-catenin immunohistochemical expression in a large group of DPN as well as in the four most frequent differential diagnoses of DPN: “blue” melanocytic tumors, Spitz tumors, nevoid and SSM melanomas, and pigmented epithelioid melanocytomas (PEM). Nuclear β-catenin expression was positive in 98/100 DPN and 2/16 of melanomas (one SSM and one nevoid melanoma with a plexiform clone) and was negative in all 30 Spitz, 26 blue, and 6 PEM lesions. In 41% DPN, β-catenin expression was positive in more than 30% nuclei. No differences were observed in cytoplasmic and nuclear cyclin D1 expression between these tumor groups, suggesting alternate, β-catenin-independent, activation pathways. We have subsequently studied nuclear β-catenin expression in a set of 13 tumors with an ambiguous diagnosis, for which DPN was part of the differential diagnosis. The three out of four patients showing canonical DPN mutation profiles were the only β-catenin-positive cases. We conclude that nuclear β-catenin expression, independently from CCND1 expression, in a dermal melanocytic tumor is an argument for its classification as DPN. In ambiguous cases and in early combined DPN lesions, this antibody can be helpful as a screening tool. β-Catenin is also potentially expressed in a subset of malignant melanomas with CTNNB1 mutations.

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