Human epidermal growth factor receptors (HER) play a critical role in the branching morphogenesis of renal tubules. In the current study, we analyzed the expression of HER2 in Wilms tumor and assessed the role of this gene in the tumorgenesis of Wilms tumor. During the period from 1960 to 2005, 40 patients with Wilms tumor were treated in our department. Twenty-four of those patients (except those with clear cell sarcoma of the kidney and malignant rhabdoid tumor of the kidney) were collected and assessed. The histological component of each Wilms tumor was divided into three categories (epithelial, blastemal, and mesenchymal) and the extent of HER2 protein expression was analyzed immunohistochemically. The normal kidney tissue accompanied with 12 cases of Wilms tumor was also examined. In the normal kidney, HER2 showed a strong immunoreactivity in the cell membranes of the collecting tubules and in the endothelial cells. Of 24 cases, 15 cases showed an epithelial component, while 24 cases had a blastemal component and 21 cases had a mesenchymal component, respectively. Among the 15 specimens with epithelial cell differentiation, eight (53.3%) showed HER2 immunoreactive epithelial cells. HER2 immunoreactive blastemal cells were present in 11 (45.8%) of 24 specimens with blastemal cells. On the other hand, only 3 (14.3%) of 21 specimens containing mesenchymal cells showed HER2 immunoreactivity. These results suggest that the extent of HER2 expression is associated with epithelial differentiation in Wilms tumor. These histological findings may therefore help to explain the development of Wilms tumor from the standpoint of histological differentiation.
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