Steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein is a mitochondrial transport protein with a critical regulatory role for steroid hormone production. The tissue distribution of StAR expression is limited to few human normal tissues.


To assess the diagnostic and prognostic value of StAR immunohistochemistry analysis.


A tissue microarray containing 19 202 samples from 152 different tumor types and subtypes and 608 samples of 76 different normal tissue types was analyzed by immunohistochemistry.


StAR immunostaining occurred in 198 (1.2%) of the 17 135 analyzable tumors. StAR expression was observed in 27 of 152 tumor categories, 9 of which included at least 1 strongly positive case. The highest rate of StAR positivity occurred in Leydig cell tumors of the testis and the ovary (100%), steroid cell tumors of the ovary (100%), adrenocortical carcinomas (93%) and adenomas (87%), Sertoli-Leydig cell tumors (67%) and granulosa cell tumors of the ovary (56%), as well as seminomas (7%). Nineteen other tumor entities showed—a usually weak—StAR positivity in less than 6% of cases. A comparison with preexisting Melan-A (a melanocyte antigen) data revealed that StAR was more often positive in adrenocortical neoplasms and in Leydig cell tumors while StAR (but not Melan-A) was negative in Sertoli cell tumors.


Our data provide a comprehensive overview on the patterns of StAR immunostaining in human tumors and suggest a diagnostic utility of StAR immunohistochemistry for supporting a diagnosis of Leydig cell tumors or of normal or neoplastic adrenocortical tissue.

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Supplementary data