Quantitative comparison of MiTF, Melan-A, HMB-45 and Mel-5 in solar lentigines and melanoma in situ

Jinah Kim, Janis M. Taube, Timothy H. McCalmont, Earl J. Glusac

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: It is often challenging to reliably assess the number of lesional melanocytes in intraepidermal melanocytic proliferations involving sun-damaged skin. Therefore, dermatopathologists routinely use immunostains to help differentiate melanocytes from surrounding keratinocytes. Methods: Forty-three cases of solar lentigo or melanoma in situ (of the lentigo maligna type) were retrospectively chosen (20 melanomas in situ and 23 solar lentigo). Microphthalmia transcription factor (MiTF), HMB-45, Melan-A and Mel-5 immunostains were performed with an Azure blue counterstain, and the mean melanocyte counts were calculated within a 1-mm segment of epidermis. Results: In solar lentigines, the mean melanocyte counts were 27 (MiTF), 23 (HMB-45 and Mel-5) and 41 (Melan-A), as compared to hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) (25). In melanoma in situ, the mean melanocyte counts were 112 (MiTF), 149 (Melan-A), 111 (HMB-45) and 80 (Mel-5), as compared to H&E (109). Conclusions: These results show that Melan-A significantly overestimates the density of melanocytes within dermatoheliotic skin. Compared to other tested stains, nuclear staining MiTF allowed greater distinction of melanocytes from keratinocytes with melanized cytoplasm. These findings indicate that MiTF is a superior marker for quantification of melanocytes in the evaluation of subtle intraepidermal melanocytic proliferations and in the differential diagnosis of solar lentigo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)775-779
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of cutaneous pathology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Melan-A
  • malignant melanoma
  • melanocyte
  • melanocytic lesions
  • melanoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Dermatology


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