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Blood. 2005 Feb 1;105(3):1256-64. Epub 2004 Sep 23.

Expression of the myeloid-associated marker CD33 is not an exclusive factor for leukemic plasmacytoid dendritic cells.

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Etablissement Français du Sang Bourgogne Franche-Comté, Unité mixte EFS/Université EA2284/Inserm U645, IFR133, Besançon, France.


A new entity of acute leukemia coexpressing CD4(+)CD56(+) markers without any other lineage-specific markers has been identified recently as arising from lymphoid-related plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs). In our laboratory, cells from a patient with such CD4(+)CD56(+) lineage-negative leukemia were unexpectedly found to also express the myeloid marker CD33. To confirm the diagnosis of pDC leukemia despite the CD33 expression, we demonstrated that the leukemic cells indeed exhibited pDC phenotypic and functional properties. In 7 of 8 other patients with CD4(+)CD56(+) pDC malignancies, we were able to confirm that the tumor cells expressed CD33 although with variable expression levels. CD33 expression was shown by flow cytometry, reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, and immunoblot analysis. Furthermore, CD33 monoclonal antibody stimulation of purified CD4(+)CD56(+) leukemic cells led to cytokine secretion, thus confirming the presence of a functional CD33 on these leukemic cells. Moreover, we found that circulating pDCs in healthy individuals also weakly express CD33. Overall, our results demonstrate that the expression of CD33 on CD4(+)CD56(+) lineage-negative cells should not exclude the diagnosis of pDC leukemia and underline that pDC-specific markers should be used at diagnosis for CD4(+)CD56(+) malignancies.

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