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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2000 Jan;124(1):92-7.

Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-negative acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

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  • 1Division of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Section of Hematopathology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) is a useful marker in the diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) (French-American-British [FAB] L1 and L2) and is most useful in distinguishing ALL from mature B-lymphoid neoplasms, such as Burkitt lymphoma (FAB L3) and other lymphoid malignancies. The frequency of TdT-negative ALL is not known. Here we report 3 TdT-negative ALL cases that met the criteria for T-cell ALL.


We reviewed approximately 200 cases of ALL retrieved from the database at our institution. All cases were evaluated using Wright-Giemsa, myeloperoxidase, butyrate, and TdT staining; immunophenotyped using flow cytometry; and studied using Southern blot analyses for T-cell receptors and immunoglobulin gene rearrangement.


All ALL cases (L1 and L2) were TdT-positive, except for 3 cases that were of early T-cell lineage. None of the 3 cases demonstrated positivity for TdT in immunofluorescence staining with polyclonal antibodies or flow cytometry with monoclonal antibodies. Flow cytometric analysis confirmed a pre-T-cell immunophenotype in all 3 cases. One of the cases showed rearrangement of a T-cell antigen receptor and immunoglobulin heavy chain (J(H)). A second case showed germline configuration of T-cell receptors, but also showed rearrangement of the J(H), despite the expression of T-cell markers only.

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