Diagnostic implications of IDH1-R132H and OLIG2 expression patterns in rare and challenging glioblastoma variants

Nancy M. Joseph, Joanna Phillips, Sonika Dahiya, Michelle M Felicella, Tarik Tihan, Daniel J. Brat, Arie Perry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Recent work has demonstrated that nearly all diffuse gliomas display nuclear immunoreactivity for the bHLH transcription factor OLIG2, and the R132H mutant isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1) protein is expressed in the majority of diffuse gliomas other than primary glioblastoma. However, these antibodies have not been widely applied to rarer glioblastoma variants, which can be diagnostically challenging when the astrocytic features are subtle. We therefore surveyed the expression patterns of OLIG2 and IDH1 in 167 non-conventional glioblastomas, including 45 small cell glioblastomas, 45 gliosarcomas, 34 glioblastomas with primitive neuroectodermal tumor-like foci (PNET-like foci), 23 with an oligodendroglial component, 11 granular cell glioblastomas, and 9 giant cell glioblastomas. OLIG2 was strongly expressed in all glioblastomas with oligodendroglial component, 98% of small cell glioblastomas, and all granular cell glioblastomas, the latter being particularly helpful in ruling out macrophage-rich lesions. In 74% of glioblastomas with PNET-like foci, OLIG2 expression was retained in the PNET-like foci, providing a useful distinction from central nervous system PNETs. The glial component of gliosarcomas was OLIG2 positive in 93% of cases, but only 14% retained focal expression in the sarcomatous component; as such this marker would not reliably distinguish these from pure sarcoma in most cases. OLIG2 was expressed in 67% of giant cell glioblastomas. IDH1 was expressed in 55% of glioblastomas with oligodendroglial component, 15% of glioblastomas with PNET-like foci, 7% of gliosarcomas, and none of the small cell, granular cell, or giant cell glioblastomas. This provides further support for the notion that most glioblastomas with oligodendroglial component are secondary, while small cell glioblastomas, granular cell glioblastomas, and giant cell glioblastomas are primary variants. Therefore, in one of the most challenging differential diagnoses, IDH1 positivity could provide strong support for glioblastoma with oligodendroglial component, while essentially excluding small cell glioblastoma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-326
Number of pages12
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • IDH1
  • OLIG2
  • glioblastoma


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