Germ Cell & Tumor Markers




A germ cell is a kind of cell that is part of the germline, and is involved in the reproduction of organisms. There are different kinds of germ cells, which include gametogonia, gametocytes and gametes. By a narrower definition, the term germ cell can also just refer to gametes, which are produced by meiosis of the aforementioned germ cells, but this definition is less precise. Cells that are not part of the germline are called somatic cells.




4C9 (carbohydrate antigen)

  • a reliable marker to study the origin, migration and differentiation of primordial germ cells, and to distinguish male and female germ cells. By immunoelectron microscopy, 4C9 was detected at the plasma membrane, the Golgi apparatus, and dense-cored vesicles in primordial germ cells on 10-11 days of gestation. PMID: 1773918


  • may be of value in histological diagnosis of germ cell tumours. PMID: 1536722

AFP (alpha-fetoprotein)

  • a marker to discriminate between germ cell tumours and liver diseases. PMID: 8652249


  • a diagnostic marker that distinguishes seminoma from embryonal carcinoma in testicular germ cell tumors. PMID: 15361850



  • first shows cell-specific expression in primordial germ cells (PGCs) approaching the gonad at stage 40, when nuage (germ plasm) appears in PGCs. PMID: 11397009

BMP15 (bone morphogenetic protein 15)


  • an invaluable indicator of the clinical status of the patient and could be a new tumor marker in patients with malignant germ cell tumors (MGCT). PMID: 2428701

c-Kit (CD117)

  • coexpression of c-kit and SCF may be an important immunohistochemical marker for the diagnosis of CNS germinoma, and the SCF/c-kit pathway may be an alternative molecular target for the treatment of human CNS germinomas. PMID: 15696963

DAZ-like 1(DAZL1)

  • a germ cell-specific protein expressed in both male and female gonads. PMID: 11956819


  • a marker of pluripotency and has a human homologue that is expressed in germ cell tumours. PMID: 14684992

EGFR (Epidermal growth factor receptor)

  • a marker for syncytiotrophoblastic cells in testicular germ cell tumors. PMID: 12783324

GCNA1 (germ cell nuclear antigen 1, GCNA-1)

  • Germ Cell Marker Gene, is widely used germ cell marker. PMID: 15189828, PMID: 16887828

  • a postmigratory sex-common germ cell marker. PMID: 12781693, PMID: 10491656

  • initially detected in both male and female germ cells as they reach the gonad at 11.5 days postcoitum (dpc). GCNA1 is continually expressed in germ cells through all stages of gametogenesis until the diplotene/dictyate stage of meiosis I. PMID: 9291464

  • expressed in mouse germ cells after they migrate into the genital ridge (11.5 dpc), throughout embryonic development until postnatally germ cells arrive at the diplotene/dictyate stage of the first meiotic division, when it is no longer expressed. PMID: 8620450

  • serves as a common marker of the germ cell lineage in male and female mice after primordial germ cells arrive in the gonadal ridge until they reach the diplotene/dictyate stage of the first meiotic division. PMID: 8200475

GDF9 (growth and differentiation factor 9)

Glypican 3


  • as a tumor marker, in body fluid and tumor tissues of germ cell tumors. PMID: 2548547


  • useful as a marker for germ cells in prenatal and postnatal testes. PMID: 12432452

Keratin 7

  • a marker for a subset of trophoblastic cells in human germ cell tumors. PMID: 1688489

Lactate Dehydrogenase (LD)

Lactate Dehydrogenase Isoenzyme 1

LDH (lactate dehydrogenase isoenzyme 1)

  • Serum lactate dehydrogenase isoenzyme 1 seems to be a useful marker of testicular germ cell tumor. PMID: 2845154


  • may serve as a diagnostic marker in detection of CIS germ cells. PMID: 2843208


  • highly sensitive and specific for malignant germ cell tumors of the ovary, especially for dysgerminoma. PMID: 9454657


  • a germ cell specific marker, is expressed differentially in testicular tumors. PMID: 11753951



  • the most informative marker in germ cell tumors diagnostics and is expressed in the precursor lesions gonadoblastoma and carcinoma in situ, as well as in invasive embryonal carcinoma and seminomatous tumors. PMID: 17425502


  • biological functions and clinical applications as a marker of germ cell neoplasia. PMID: 17117392

  • a sensitive and specific marker for intratubular germ cell neoplasia of the testis. PMID: 17063084, PMID: 15623637

  • a useful diagnostic tool in the identification of seminomas and primary embryonal carcinomas in GCTs originating from the mediastinum. PMID: 16932017


  • a good diagnostic marker for intratubular germ cell neoplasia, unclassified. PMID: 11556746


  • the 1.5-kb platelet-derived growth factor alpha-receptor transcript can be used as a highly selective marker for detection of early stages of human testicular germ cell tumors. PMID: 8610136

PLAP (placental-like alkaline phosphatase)


  • a useful histological marker for the diagnosis of germinoma in central nervous system (CNS) germ cell tumors (GCTs). PMID: 16718353, PMID: 16676194

  • has a function in developing testis, most likely at the level of cell-cell interactions among pre-meiotic germ cells and immature Sertoli cells. PMID: 16736189


  • a marker of meiotic and post-meiotic germ cell differentiation: quantitative assessment of human spermatogenesis with a monoclonal antibody. PMID: 8021878

RBM (RNA-binding motif)

  • a novel marker consistently expressed in normal male germ cells but not in malignant germ cell tumors or IGCN. Thus, the absence of RBM expression in germ cells provides a new diagnostic tool of preinvasive malignancy of the testis. PMID: 11014580


  • a promising marker of biological immortality of germ, stem, and cancer cells. PMID: 9467857

  • High levels of telomerase activity and hTERT expression were detected in all examined undifferentiated TGCTs and in the benign testicular tissue specimens with germ cell content. PMID: 12459049

  • a ribonucleoprotein enzyme which is endogenously expressed in germ, stem and tumor cells, but absent in benign somatic cells. PMID: 12168080


  • a novel testis-specific metallothionein-like protein, is an early marker of male germ cell differentiation. PMID: 10191092

  • Germ cell-specific nucleocytoplasmic shuttling protein. PMID: 11803038


  • a cell-surface marker protein, is unique to male and female germ cells. PMID: 16678124

  • a glycoprotein we recently identified, is primarily characterized as a unique germ-cell-specific marker protein that shows sexually dimorphic expression during mouse gonad development. PMID: 16822331

  • a specific marker for both male and female germ cells during gonadal development. PMID: 15689535


  • tumor marker in patients with germ cell cancer. PMID: 12115576

  • useful in the follow-up of stage 1 nonseminomatous testicular germ cell tumors (NSTGCT). The combination of AFP, hCG, and TRA-1-60 may improve the early detection of recurrence. PMID: 9181232

  • a new serum marker in patients with germ-cell tumors. PMID: 1717384


  • a specific marker for both normal and malignant human germ cells. PMID: 11850529

  • can be used as a marker for germ cell fate. PMID: 12536324

  • VASA protein is cytoplasmic and expressed in migratory primordial germ cells in the region of the gonadal ridge. VASA protein is present in fetal and adult gonadal germ cells in both males and females and is most abundant in spermatocytes and mature oocytes. The gene we have isolated is thus a highly specific marker of germ cells and should be useful for studies of human germ cell determination and function. PMID: 10920202

ZAR1 (zygotic arrest 1)

Other Germ Cell & Tumor Markers

  • M2A, GCAP, and sACE can be used as differentiation markers for the discrimination of different germ cell types during human prespermatogenesis. PMID: 15597196

  • Spatio-temporal expression of the germ cell marker genes MATER, ZAR1, GDF9, BMP15,andVASA in adult bovine tissues, oocytes, and preimplantation embryos. PMID: 15189828

  • FDG-PET has a high prognostic value for predicting the response to chemotherapy in patients with metastatic GCT early in the course of treatment and may improve patient selection for subsequent HD-CTX protocols. PMID: 14712410

  • Pretreatment follicle-stimulating hormone: a prognostic serum marker of spermatogenesis status in patients treated for germ cell cancer. PMID: 9598493

  • marker enzymes for pre-meiotic germ cells: glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase, malate dehydrogenase, alpha-glycerophosphate dehydrogenase. PMID: 9378524

  • Multiple atypical nevi: a cutaneous marker of germ cell tumors. PMID: 7964941

  • Serum tumor marker decline is an early predictor of treatment outcome in germ cell tumor patients treated with cisplatin and ifosfamide salvage chemotherapy. PMID: 7513603

  • i(12p) is a highly nonrandom chromosomal marker seen in about 80% of male germ cell tumors with evaluable cytogenetic abnormalities. PMID: 8308927, PMID: 1683567

  • in addition to PAS and antibodies to SSEA-1 and EMA-1, new specific markers of chicken PGCs are recognized by the lectins STA and DBA and by antibodies to SSEA-3 and SSEA-4 and integrins alpha6 and beta1. Double staining using these newly developed markers might be the method of choice for rapid characterization of chicken PGCs. PMID: 15849176

  • M2A, GCAP, and sACE can be used as differentiation markers for the discrimination of different germ cell types during human prespermatogenesis. PMID: 15597196

  • Notch-1, c-kit and GFRalpha-1 are developmentally regulated markers for premeiotic germ cells. PMID: 15237212