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Alpha isoform of smooth muscle actin (SMA) expression has been reported in giant cell tumour of bone (GCTB) and other benign and malignant bone tumours, but the pattern of SMA expression and the precise nature of SMA-expressing cells in these lesions is uncertain. We determined by immunohistochemistry the expression of SMA and other muscle and vascular markers in normal bone, GCTB and a wide range of primary benign and malignant bone tumours. Cultured stromal cells of GCTB, chondroblastoma (CB), and aneurysmal bone cyst (ABC) were also analysed for SMA expression. SMA was only noted in blood vessels in normal bone. SMA was expressed by mononuclear stromal cells (MSC) cultured from GCTB, ABC and CB. SMA was strongly and diffusely expressed by MSC in non-ossifying fibroma, fibrous dysplasia, and "brown tumour" of hyperparathyroidism. SMA expression was also noted in GCTB, ABC, CB, chondromyxoid fibroma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma of bone and osteosarcoma. Little or no SMA was noted in Langerhans cell histiocytosis, simple bone cyst, Ewing's sarcoma, osteoblastoma, osteoid osteoma, enchondroma, osteochondroma, chondrosarcoma, myeloma, lymphoma, chordoma and adamantinoma. Our findings show that there is differential SMA expression in primary bone tumours and that identifying the presence or absence of SMA is useful in the differential diagnosis of these lesions. The nature of SMA-expressing cells in bone tumours is uncertain but they are negative for desmin and caldesmon and could represent either myofibroblasts or perivascular cells, such as pericytes.

Original publication




Journal article


Virchows arch

Publication Date





525 - 534


Actins, Biomarkers, Tumor, Bone Neoplasms, Humans