META-ANALYSIS
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Melanocytic differentiation is present in a significant proportion of nonpigmented diffuse neurofibromas: a potential diagnostic pitfall.

Whereas the pigmented (melanotic) variant of diffuse neurofibroma (DNF) with positivity for melanocytic markers is well recognized, expression of melanocytic markers in nonpigmented DNF has not been systematically studied. We analyzed 28 unselected consecutive DNFs for expression of melanocytic markers, including melan A, microphthalmia transcription factor (MITF), and HMB-45 antigen. For comparison, we also analyzed 40 localized skin neurofibromas and 7 intraneural neurofibromas. One case of nonpigmented DNF was analyzed by electron microscopy. Of the 28 DNFs studied by immunohistochemistry, 3 were pigmented and 25 nonpigmented. The 3 pigmented DNFs and 9 of 25 (36%) nonpigmented DNFs expressed melan A, MITF, and HMB-45 antigen. These markers were expressed either focally or more diffusely, typically in a minority of the lesional cells, and usually both in the dermal and subcutaneous portion of the DNF. Melan A was expressed in the largest number of the lesional cells (up to 50%), whereas only a small fraction of the melan A-positive cells (from 5% to 10% in most cases) also expressed HMB-45 antigen. None of the 47 non-DNFs expressed these markers. Ultrastructurally, melanosomes were present in some cells in nonpigmented DNF that expressed the melanocytic markers. Twenty-three of 28 (82%) DNFs, including 10 of 12 (83%) DNFs with melanocytic differentiation, were associated with neurofibromatosis type 1. Expression of melanocytic markers, including melan A, HMB-45 antigen, and MITF in DNF is a potential pitfall in differential diagnosis with melanocytic lesions that may clinically or histopathologically resemble DNF, in particular congenital melanocytic nevus with neurotization and neurofibroma-like melanoma.

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