2018 Volume 65 Issue 5 Pages 579-586
The pathogenesis of thyroid lymphoepithelial cysts is controversial, and two hypotheses have been proposed, namely derivation from branchial-derived remnants or from squamous metaplasia of the follicular cells. The aim of this study was to clarify the pathogenesis of thyroid lymphoepithelial cysts. We performed pathological and immunohistochemical examination of 21 thyroid lymphoepithelial cysts, 13 non-neoplastic squamous metaplasia samples without thyroid carcinoma, 13 solid cell nests, and 14 lateral cervical cysts. On ultrasound, half of thyroid lymphoepithelial cysts were interpreted as calcified nodules regardless of no calcification. Thyroid lymphoepithelial cysts and squamous metaplasia tended to be located in the central and lower portions of the thyroid, while solid cell nests were located in the upper and central portions (p < 0.05). In 95.2% of patients with thyroid lymphoepithelial cysts and all patients with squamous metaplasia, lesions were histologically associated with chronic thyroiditis forming lymph follicles. Hashimoto’s disease was serologically confirmed in 18 patients with lymphoepithelial cysts (85.7%) and 10 patients with squamous metaplasia (76.9%). Immunohistochemically, lymphoepithelial cysts showed nuclear positivity for PAX8, thyroid transcription factor 1, and p63. One lateral cervical cyst (7.1%) showed positive staining for PAX8, while solid cell nests were PAX8-negative. In three (14.3%) cases of thyroid lymphoepithelial cysts, squamous cells located on the superficial layer were focally and weakly positive for CEA. We concluded that thyroid lymphoepithelial cysts originate from follicular cells and are unrelated to solid cell nests and lateral cervical cysts arising from branchial-derived remnants.