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Blood. 2002 Jan 1;99(1):61-6.

Perforin expression in cytotoxic lymphocytes from patients with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis and their family members.

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Division of Hematology/Oncology, Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039, USA.


Mutations in the perforin gene have been described in some patients with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), but the role of perforin defects in the pathogenesis of HLH remains unclear. Four-color flow cytometric analysis was used to establish normal patterns of perforin expression for control subjects of all ages, and patterns of perforin staining in cytotoxic lymphocytes (natural killer [NK] cells, CD8(+) T cells, CD56(+) T cells) from patients with HLH and their family members were studied. Eleven unrelated HLH patients and 19 family members were analyzed prospectively. Four of the 7 patients with primary HLH showed lack of intracellular perforin in all cytotoxic cell types. All 4 patients showed mutations in the perforin gene. Their parents, obligate carriers of perforin mutations, had abnormal perforin-staining patterns. Analysis of cytotoxic cells from the other 3 patients with primary HLH and remaining family members had normal percentages of perforin-positive cytotoxic cells. On the other hand, the 4 patients with Epstein-Barr virus-associated HLH typically had depressed numbers of NK cells but markedly increased proportions of CD8(+) T cells with perforin expression. Four-color flow cytometry provides diagnostic information that, in conjunction with evidence of reduced NK function, may speed the identification of life-threatening HLH in some families and direct further genetic studies of the syndrome.

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