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Testicular germ cell tumours (TGCTs) derived from immature (type I) and pluripotent germ cell neoplasia in situ (GCNIS, type II) are characterised by remarkable phenotypic heterogeneity and plasticity. In contrast, the rare spermatocytic tumour (SpT, type III), derived from mature spermatogonia, is considered a homogenous and benign tumour but may occasionally present as an anaplastic or an aggressive sarcomatoid tumour. While various oncogenic processes had been proposed, the precise mechanism driving malignant progression remained elusive until the molecular characterisation of a series of atypical SpTs described in a recent issue of The Journal of Pathology. The emerging picture suggests the presence of two distinct trajectories for SpTs, involving either RAS/mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway mutations or a ploidy shift with secondary TP53 mutations and/or gain of chromosome 12p, the latter known as pathognomonic for type II GCNIS-derived TGCTs. Here, we discuss the implications of these findings, seen from the perspective of germ cell biology and the unique features of different TGCTs. The evolving phenotype of SpTs, induced by genomic and epigenetic changes, illustrates that the concept of plasticity applies to all germ cell tumours, making them inherently heterogenous and capable of significant transformation during progression. © 2024 The Authors. The Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

Original publication




Journal article


J Pathol

Publication Date





1 - 4


genomic progression, germ cell tumour, phenotypic plasticity, spermatocytic tumour, testicular cancer