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Am J Clin Pathol. 2001 Jul;116(1):12-6.

Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-positive cells in human tonsils.

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  • 1Dept of Pathology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, One Gustave Levy Place, New York, NY 10029, USA.


To study the possible cellular origin of recently recognized indolent terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-positive T-lymphoblastic proliferations of the tonsils and oropharynx, we studied normal human tonsils for the presence of TdT-positive cells. TdT-positive cells were readily demonstrated in the tonsils from 15 children and adults by immunohistochemical staining. TdT-positive cells were distributed in discrete foci at the periphery of lobules of lymphoid tissue and adjacent to fibrous septa and had the morphologic features of small to medium-sized lymphocytes. Double-antibody staining indicated the TdT-positive cells had the phenotype of uncommitted early lymphoid precursors (CD3-, CD79a-, CD10-). Foci of TdT-positive cells were not identified in 6 reactive lymph nodes studied as controls. These studies indicate that tonsils, like bone marrow and thymus, are sites of lymphopoiesis. The presence of TdT-positive precursor cells in human tonsils may be a factor in the pathogenesis of recently described indolent T-lymphoblastic proliferations involving the tonsils and oropharynx. The presence of TdT-positive cells in human tonsils should not be misinterpreted as evidence of lymphoblastic lymphoma or leukemia.

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