Loss of H3K27me3 occurs in a large subset of embryonal rhabdomyosarcomas: Immunohistochemical and molecular analysis of 25 cases

Tess Tomassen, Lennart A Kester, Bastiaan B Tops, Else Driehuis, Max M van Noesel, Roelof van Ewijk, Joost M van Gorp, Caroline C Hulsker, Sheila E J Terwisscha-van Scheltinga, Hans H M Merks, Uta Flucke, Laura S Hiemcke-Jiwa

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Loss of histone 3 lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3) has been described as a diagnostic marker for malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST), also discriminating MPNST with rhabdomyoblastic differentiation (malignant Triton tumor) from rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS). We studied the immunohistochemical expression of H3K27me3 in embryonal RMSs (ERMSs), performed methylation profiling in order to support the diagnosis and RNA-sequencing for comparison of the transcriptome of H3K27me3-positive and -negative cases. Of the 25 ERMS patients, 17 were males and 8 were females with an age range from 1 to 67 years (median, 6 years). None were known with neurofibromatosis type 1. One patient had Li-Fraumeni syndrome. Tumor localization included paratesticular (n = 9), genitourinary (n = 6), head/neck (n = 5), retroperitoneal (n = 4) and lower arm (n = 1). Five MPNSTs served as reference group. All ERMS had classical features including a variable spindle cell component. Immunohistochemical loss (partial or complete) of H3K27me3 was detected in 18/25 cases (72%). Based on methylation profiling, 22/22 cases were classified as ERMS. Using RNA sequencing, the ERMS group (n = 14) had a distinct gene expression profile in contrast to MPNSTs, confirming that the H3K27me3 negative ERMS cases do not represent malignant Triton tumors. When comparing H3K27me3-negative and -positive ERMSs, gene set enrichment analysis revealed differential expression of genes related to histone acetylation and normal muscle function with H3K27me3 negative ERMSs being associated with acetylation. Conclusion: Loss of H3K27me3 frequently occurs in ERMSs and correlates with H3K27 acetylation. H3K27me3 is not a suitable marker to differentiate ERMS (with spindle cell features) from malignant Triton tumor.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151735
Pages (from-to)151735
JournalAnnals of diagnostic pathology
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Acetylation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA Methylation
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Histones/genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry/methods
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofibrosarcoma/diagnosis
  • RNA-Seq/methods
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma/diagnosis
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma, Embryonal/diagnosis
  • Transcriptome
  • Young Adult


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