The SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complex status in renal cell carcinomas with sarcomatoid or rhabdoid features.
The presence of sarcomatoid or rhabdoid features (which are associated with advanced disease and poor prognosis) is rarely observed in the subtypes of renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complex, which is composed of evolutionarily conserved core subunits including SMARCB1/INI1 (SMARCB1), SMARCA4/BRG1 (SMARCA4), SMARCC1/BAF155 (SMARCC1), and SMARCC2/BAF170 (SMARCC2), can be regarded as the prototype of an epigenetic regulator of gene expression that is involved in tumor suppression. We analyzed the histological, immunohistochemical, and clinicopathological status in 72 cases of RCC with sarcomatoid or rhabdoid features, focusing on the expression status of the subunits of SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complex proteins. Cases with lost or reduced expression were defined as showing aberrant expression. The frequency of aberrant SMARCA4 immunoexpression of a sarcomatoid or rhabdoid component in clear cell RCC (ccRCC) (47/50, 94%) was significantly higher than that in non-ccRCC (4/9, 44%) (p < 0.001). In ccRCC without sarcomatoid or rhabdoid features, aberrant SMARCA4 immunoexpression was observed in 33 of 48 (67%) cases. Immunoreactivities for SMARCB1, SMARCA2, and SMARCC2 were retained in almost all subtypes of RCC. The patients with aberrant SMARCA4 expression in RCC with sarcomatoid or rhabdoid features achieved shorter progression-free survival compared with the patients with retained SMARCA4 expression (all subtypes of RCC, p = 0.0212; ccRCC, p = 0.0265). These results suggest that in ccRCC, aberrant SMARCA4 expression is one of the adverse prognostic factors or a high-grade malignant transforming factor. The evaluation of SMARCA4 immunoexpression may be a useful diagnostic tool to help distinguish ccRCC from non-ccRCC.