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Hum Pathol. 1997 Nov;28(11):1276-82.

CD56+ putative natural killer cell lymphomas: production of cytolytic effectors and related proteins mediating tumor cell apoptosis?

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Caritas Medical Center, Shamshuipo, Kowloon, Hong Kong.


Apoptosis is a regulated form of cell death that may be triggered by natural killer (NK) or cytotoxic T cells, which effect target cell lysis by cytolytic effector and related proteins through complex intracellular signals. This study was aimed to investigate whether there is selective expression of these cytolytic markers in the putative NK-cell lymphomas and whether there is correlation with zonal tumor cell death in these tumors. Expression of the cytolytic effectors perforin, granzyme B9, and the granule membrane protein TIA1 were examined in 24 putative NK-cell lymphomas, 18 postthymic T-cell lymphomas (one case CD8+ CD56+ and three anaplastic large cell lymphomas (ALCL), three T-lymphoblastic lymphomas, and 20 B-cell lymphomas. Nineteen (79%) putative NK-cell lymphomas expressed perforin, and all 24 cases expressed granzyme B9 and TIA1. The only CD8+ CD56+ postthymic T-cell lymphoma also expressed all three cytolytic markers, two CD8- ALCL expressed TIA1; other postthymic T-cell, T-lymphoblastic, and B-cell lymphomas were consistently negative. There was strong correlation between percentage perforin-positive cells and zonal tumor cell death. Angioinvasion, in contrast, was present only in a proportion (37%) of these lymphomas despite the frequent presence of zonal tumor cell death (71%). We propose that cytolytic effector and related proteins produced by putative NK and some CD8+ CD56+ postthymic T-cell lymphomas, probably in conjunction with other mechanisms, may effect massive tumor cell apoptosis. The frequent expression of cytolytic effector markers in the CD2+ surface CD3- CD56+ putative NK-cell lymphomas lends further support to their probable NK cell origin.

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