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Cytometry B Clin Cytom. 2009 Mar;76(2):150-5. doi: 10.1002/cyto.b.20440.

Overexpression of CD49f in precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia: potential usefulness in minimal residual disease detection.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Hartford Hospital, Connecticut 06102-5037, USA.



The persistence of minimal residual disease (MRD) following therapy is an established prognostic factor in precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (pB-ALL). Detection of MRD in pB-ALL by flow cytometric immunophenotyping requires demonstration of abnormal antigen expression in leukemic B-cell precursors relative to that of normal B-cell precursors. The gene encoding CD49f (integrin alpha-6) is one of several whose overexpression in pB-ALL at diagnosis has been associated with the subsequent detection of MRD. However, whether CD49f might be a useful reagent in the immunophenotypic detection of MRD in pB-ALL has not been evaluated.


We evaluated CD49f expression by 4-color flow cytometry in normal B-cell precursors, and in a series of cases of pB-ALL, both at diagnosis and at intervals following the initiation of therapy.


In 10 control marrow samples, CD49f was undetectable or extremely dim in all but a minor subset of normal CD19+ B-lineage cells, whereas in 11 of 15 cases (73%) of pB-ALL, CD49f was moderate or bright at diagnosis, and persisted or became brighter after initiation of therapy. MRD detected using CD49f corresponded precisely with that obtained using a standard panel of antibodies, and permitted the detection of leukemic populations comprising as little as 0.02% of cells. Of the four pB-ALL cases in which CD49f was undetectable or dim at diagnosis, MRD was detected in two; in one of these, CD49f expression was substantially increased in the leukemic cells that persisted following initiation of therapy.


CD49f is commonly overexpressed in p-B-ALL, and represents a potentially useful marker for the immunophenotypic detection of MRD.

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