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Cytometry. 2001 Feb 15;46(1):28-32.

Apoptotic index by Annexin V flow cytometry: adjunct to morphologic and cytogenetic diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndromes.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York 13210, USA.


The myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are clonal hematologic malignancies characterized by pancytopenia, dysplastic hematopoiesis, and a propensity to leukemic transformation. Increased apoptosis has been noted in MDS as a possible explanation for ineffective hematopoiesis, with lower levels in progression to and in de novo acute leukemia. Apoptosis can be measured by binding of Annexin V to exposed membrane phosphatidylserine. We postulated that the apoptotic index would aid in the differential diagnosis of MDS versus other hematopoietic diseases. We examined 33 bone marrow aspirates suspected of hematopoietic malignancy for apoptotic index by Annexin V analysis using a Becton Dickinson FACStar+ flow cytometer. The apoptotic index was expressed as the percentage of Annexin V-positive cells divided by total mononuclear cells in the gate. By standard morphologic analysis, 16 cases were diagnosed as MDS (9 refractory anemia [RA], 2 refractory anemia with ringed sideroblasts [RARS], 1 refractory anemia with excess of blasts [RAEB], 3 chronic myelomonocytic leukemia [CMML], and 1 unclassified), 11 as acute leukemia (AL), 6 as myeloproliferative disorders (MPD). Eight cases (uninvolved marrow of five patients with lymphoproliferative disorders [LPD], one patient with multiple myeloma, and two patients with anemia of chronic disease) served as nonneoplastic controls. A higher degree of apoptosis was observed in MDS (mean = 44.7%; range = 29.5--60%) compared with MPD (mean = 8.2%; range = 2.3--15.4%), AL (mean = 16.1%; range = 5.1--29.4%), and control marrow samples (mean = 11.6%; range = 1.5--21%). Additionally, the apoptotic index was significantly higher in MDS compared with MPD (P < 0.0001). In conclusion, a high apoptotic index occurs in MDS, supporting previous reports and suggesting that Annexin V analysis can be used as an adjunct in the diagnosis of MDS versus MPD. This would be particularly useful for the often-difficult distinction between early MDS and early MPD cases with equivocal morphology.

Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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