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The Identification of Ganglion Cells in Hirschsprung Disease by the Immunohistochemical Detection of ret Oncoprotein

Sadiqa Karim MD, Colleen Hession, Sharon Marconi, David L. Gang MD, Christopher N. Otis MD
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1309/YG56BUXHWURFJP3E 49-54 First published online: 1 July 2006


The absence of ganglion cells (GCs) is the primary anatomic abnormality in Hirschsprung disease. Light microscopy is the mainstay in establishing this diagnosis. However, establishing a condition of aganglionosis may be challenging on routine H&E-stained sections of colonic biopsies and resections. We studied the identification of GCs by retinoblastoma oncoprotein (ret) immunoreactivity and routine H&E light microscopy by evaluating 53 blocks from 34 patients demonstrating GCs on original H&E-stained sections and 55 blocks from 38 patients lacking GCs on original H&E-stained sections. All blocks demonstrating GCs on H&E-stained sections also were positive for GCs on ret staining (100%). In 3 blocks that were negative for GCs by H&E staining (5%), GCs were shown on ret-stained sections. Immunoreactivity for ret has comparable specificity but slightly higher sensitivity to routine light microscopic evaluation in identifying GCs. GCs are identified more readily by ret immunoreactivity than by routine morphologic examination.

Key Words:
  • Hirschsprung disease
  • ret oncoprotein
  • Immunohistochemistry