Distinguishing bladder muscularis propria from muscularis mucosae can be problematic especially in transurethral resection specimens performed for bladder carcinoma. Moreover, bladder carcinoma can be associated with a proliferative/desmoplastic myofibroblastic response that can resemble smooth muscle and potentially lead to overdiagnosis of muscularis propria invasion. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential role of immunohistochemistry in staging bladder carcinoma by evaluating the expression of different markers in myofibroblasts and nonvascular smooth muscle cells in 15 cases of invasive bladder carcinoma. Reactive myofibroblasts were consistently positive for vimentin and smooth muscle actin, consistently negative for caldesmon, desmin, and smoothelin, and had variable expression of actin and CD10. Nonvascular smooth muscle cells of the bladder were consistently positive for smooth muscle actin, actin, desmin, and caldesmon, and consistently negative for CD10. In contrast to smooth muscle cells of the muscularis propria, which displayed strong smoothelin expression in all 15 cases, the smooth muscle cells of the muscularis mucosae displayed moderate smoothelin expression in only 1 (9%) of 11 cases (P=10(-7)). Surprisingly, although strongly highlighting endothelial and endomysial cells, the smooth muscle cells of the muscularis propria weakly expressed vimentin in only 1 (7%) of 15 cases, whereas smooth muscle cells of the muscularis mucosae had moderate or strong expression in 9 (82%) of 11 cases (P=0.00016). The sensitivity and specificity of desmin or caldesmon expression for smooth muscle cells were 100%. The sensitivity and specificity of strong smoothelin expression for muscularis propria were 100%, whereas those of absent vimentin expression were 93 and 82%, respectively. Although morphology remains the gold standard, the findings suggest that immunohistochemistry, using a panel composed of desmin, smoothelin, and vimentin, may be potentially useful for staging of bladder carcinoma. Confirmatory larger-scale studies, especially on transurethral resection specimens, are warranted.