CD163 is a type I membrane protein, and is a member of the hemoglobin scavenger receptor cystein-rich superfamily. The protein is involved in the clearance of hemoglobin-haptoglobin complexes and is considered to have anti-inflammatory functions. The antigen expression is restricted to the monocytic/macrophage lineage. It is expressed by all circulating monocytes and by a majority of tissue macrophages, such as splenic dendrocytes, alveolar macrophages and Kupffer cells of the liver. It is not present in macrophages in the mantle zone and some of the germinal center cells in lymph follicles, nor in Langerhans cells and interdigitating reticulum cells. The protein is generally upregulated by corticosteroids and downregulated by some immunosuppressive drugs.


CD163 is found in almost all cases of acute myeloid leukemia with monocytoid differentiation and in the majority of cases of histiocytic sarcoma, littoral cell angioma, Rosai-Dorfman disease, Langerhans cell histiocytosis and typical and atypical fibrous histiocytoma. It is also expressed in some cases of dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans. There are also studies showing that CD163 may be expressed by a subset of tumour cells in breast carcinoma, rectal carcinoma, angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma, non-gynaecologic leiomyosarcoma and malignant melanoma, possibly indicating a worse prognosis. Positivity for CD163 is seen not only in tumour cells, but also in reactive, non-neoplastic macrophages infiltrating all kinds of tumours.


CD163 can be used to detect cells of monocytic and histiocyte lineage in neoplastic and reactive lesions. It has been shown to be more sensitive than CD68 for the detection of macrophages and monocytic cells. It covers a similar, but not identical, spectrum of cells as CD68.


Tonsil is recommended as control: The interfollicular and dark zone germinal centre macrophages must show a moderate to strong cytoplasmic staining, while the lymphocytes and epithelial cells should be negative.

Selected references

Alexeiev BA, Wang W, Ning Y, Chumsri S, Gojo I, Rodgers WH, Stass SA, Zhao XF. Myeloid sarcomas: a histologic, immunohistochemical and cytogenetic study. Dagn Pathol 2007, 2:42. Garcia C, gardner D, Reichard KK. CD163: a specefic immunohistochemical marker for acute myeloid leukemia with monocytic differentiation. Appl Immunohistochem Mol Morphol 2008, 16(5), 417-21. Lau SK, Chu PG, Weiss LM. CD163: a specific marker of macrophages in paraffin-embedded tissue samples. Am J Clin Pathol 2004, 122(5), 794-801. Lee CH, Espinosa I, Vrijaldenhoven S, Subramanian S, Montgomery KD, Zhu S, Marinelli RJ, Peterse JL, Poulin N, Nielsen TO, West RB, Gilks CB, van de Rijn M. Prognostic significance of macrophage infiltration in leiomyosarcomas. Clin Cancer Res 2008, 14(5), 1423-30 Nguyen TT, Schwartz EJ, West RB, Warnke RA, Arber DA, Natkunam Y. Expression of CD163 (hemoglobin scavenger receptor) in normal tissues, lymphomas, carcinomas and sarcomas is largely restricted to the monocyte/macrophage lineage. Am J Surg Pathol 2005, 29(5), 617-24. Pilling D, Fan T, Huang D, Kaul B, Gomer RH. Identification of markers that distinguish monocyte-derived fibrocytes from monocytes, macrophages and fibroblasts. PLoS One, 2009, 4(10), e7475. Pouryazdanparast P, Yu L, Cutlan JE, Olsen SH, Fullen DR, Ma L. Diagnostic value of CD163 in cutaneous spindle cell lesions. J Cutan Pathol 2009, 36(8), 859-64. Sachdev R, Sundram U. Expression of CD163 in dermatofibroma, cellular fibrous histiocytoma and dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans: comparison with CD68, CD 34 and Factor XIIIa. J Cutan Pathol 2006, 33(5), 353-60. Shabo I, Olsson H, Sun XF, Svanvik J. Expression of the macrophage antigen CD163 in rectal cancer cells is associated with early local recurrence and reduced survival time. Int J Cancer, 2009, 125(8), 1826-31. Schabo I, Stål O, Olsson H, Doré S, Svanvik J. Breast cancer expression of CD163, a macrophage scavenger receptor, is related to early distant recurrence and reduced patient survival. . Int J Cancer, 2009, 123(4), 780-86. Shinoda H, Youshida A, Teruya-Feldstein J. Malignant histiocyotes/disseminated histiocytic sarcoma with hemophagocytic syndrome in a patient with mediatsinal germ cells tumour. Appl Immunohistochem Mol Morphol. 2009, 17(4), 338-344. Van den Heuvel MM, Tensen CP, van As JH, Van den Berg TK, Fluitsma DM, Dijkstra CD, Dopp EA, Droste A, Van Gaalen FA, Sorg C, Hogger P, Beelen RH. Regulation of CD 163 on human macrophages: cross-linking of CD 163 induces signaling and activation. J Lekocyte Biol 1999, 66(5), 858-866. Yoshida C, Takeuchi M. Histiocytic sarcoma: identification of its histiocytic origin using immunohistochemistry. Intern Med 2008, 47(3), 165-69.

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