Stains & CD markers

Editorial Board Member: Maria Tretiakova, M.D., Ph.D.
Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Debra L. Zynger, M.D.
Emily S. Reisenbichler, M.D.

Last author update: 1 March 2018
Last staff update: 7 June 2022

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PubMed Search: GATA3[TI] pathology free full text[sb]

Emily S. Reisenbichler, M.D.
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Cite this page: Reisenbichler ES. GATA3. website. Accessed September 21st, 2023.
Definition / general
  • One of 6 members of the GATA family of transcription factors
  • Involved in the luminal differentiation of breast epithelium, development of collecting system / urothelium and trophoblastic differentiation
  • Also master regulator of type 2 helper T cells
Essential features
  • Nuclear marker with expression in many epithelial neoplasms (including most breast, urothelial, paraganglioma / pheochromocytoma and skin carcinoma; smaller percentages of lung, liver, pancreatic, gastric, renal, thyroid, endometrial, ovarian and salivary gland carcinoma)
  • Variable expression seen in selected germ cell tumors, mesotheliomas and rare sarcomas
  • Due to the increasing number of tumors found to express GATA3, immunohistochemical staining with additional markers is necessary to determine the etiology of metastatic lesions of unknown primary
Clinical features
  • Nuclear stain
Uses by pathologists
  • Differentiate metastatic urothelial and breast carcinomas (GATA3+) from many other metastatic carcinomas (Am J Surg Pathol 2014;38:13)
  • Differentiate urothelial carcinoma (> 80% GATA3+) from prostatic carcinoma (2% GATA3+)
  • Differentiate metastatic lobular carcinoma of the breast (GATA3+) from gastric signet ring cell carcinoma (GATA3-)
  • Differentiate squamous cell carcinoma of the skin (GATA3+) from squamous cell carcinoma of the lung (GATA3-)
  • Differentiate mesothelioma (81% GATA3+) from pulmonary adenocarcinoma (12% GATA3+)
  • Differentiate acute leukemias with T cell differentiation (GATA3+) from acute myeloid leukemia (< 10% GATA3+) and B lymphoblastic leukemias (GATA3-) (Hum Pathol 2017;65:166)
  • Subtyping renal neoplasms: GATA3+ in subset of clear cell papillary renal carcinomas and chromophobe renal cell carcinomas (Appl Immunohistochem Mol Morphol 2018;26:316, Am J Surg Pathol 2014;38:13)
  • Subtyping salivary gland neoplasms: diffuse GATA3 staining in 100% of mammary analogue secretory carcinoma and salivary duct carcinomas; GATA3 positive, but not diffuse staining, in other salivary tumors (Head Neck Pathol 2013;7:311)
Prognostic factors
Microscopic (histologic) images

Contributed by Emily S. Reisenbichler, M.D., Andrey Bychkov, M.D., Ph.D., Maria Tretiakova, M.D., Ph.D. and Debra Zynger, M.D.
Metastatic breast carcinoma Metastatic breast carcinoma

Metastatic breast carcinoma

Poorly differentiated breast carcinoma Poorly differentiated breast carcinoma Poorly differentiated breast carcinoma

Poorly differentiated breast carcinoma

Invasive urothelial carcinoma

Invasive urothelial carcinoma

Nonneoplastic urothelium Nonneoplastic urothelium

Nonneoplastic urothelium

Nonneoplastic collecting ducts

Nonneoplastic collecting ducts

Urothelial carcinoma

Urothelial carcinoma

Pheochromocytoma Pheochromocytoma


Nonneoplastic lymphocytes Nonneoplastic lymphocytes

Nonneoplastic lymphocytes

Positive staining - normal
Positive staining - tumors
Negative staining - normal
  • Breast myoepithelial cells
  • Skin - epidermal granular cell layer, matrix cells of hair bulb and eccrine glands (Am J Dermatopathol 2015;37:885)
  • Thyroid follicular cells
Negative staining - tumors
Board review style question #1
A biopsied liver lesion is radiographically suspected to be a metastasis of unknown primary. Which stain combination would be most consistent with metastasis from a breast primary?

  1. GATA3 negative, CK7 positive, TTF1 positive, CK20 negative
  2. GATA3 negative, S100 positive, SOX10 positive, AE1 / AE3 negative
  3. GATA3 positive, ER positive, CK7 positive, p63 negative
  4. GATA3 positive, p63 positive, ER negative, CK5 / 6 positive
Board review style answer #1
C. GATA3 positive, ER positive, CK7 positive, p63 negative. While none of these markers alone is specific for breast carcinoma, most breast carcinomas are positive, particularly estrogen receptor (ER) positive tumors. The combined immunohistochemical findings in the other answer choices are most indicative of melanoma and carcinomas of urothelial and lung primary.

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