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Leukemia. 1989 Mar;3(3):170-81.

The reliability of cytoplasmic CD3 and CD22 antigen expression in the immunodiagnosis of acute leukemia: a study of 500 cases.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London, U.K.


Current views about the origin of acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL) emphasize the importance of maturation arrest at a precursor cell level. Recently, the CD22 antigen has been identified in the cytoplasm of normal bone marrow-borne immature B lineage cells, while the CD3 antigen (epsilon chain) has been detected within normal immature thymic blasts. In the first part our study performed on 100 cases of known acute leukemias, the expression of such cytoplasmic molecules, referred to as cCD22 and cCD3, was analyzed together with their appearance in the leukemic cells' membrane (mCD22 and mCD3). The presence of cCD22 in B-lineage ALL and that of cCD3 in T-ALL has indeed fully confirmed the diagnosis reached by other markers, and mCD22 and mCD3 were expressed on only a few cases of B- and T-lineage ALL, also revealing a degree of developmental asynchrony within leukemic blasts. In the subsequent analysis both cCD22 and cCD3 have been included in a standard panel of diagnostic reagents applied on 500 consecutive cases of acute leukemia. Here the aim was to analyze both the diagnostic precision of individual markers and the heterogeneity of various leukemic types in terms of the expression of membrane and intracellular antigens and their cytochemical features (Sudan Black B and esterases). It has been found that cCD22 and cCD3 are exquisitely specific for B-precursor ALL (TdT+, CD19+) and T-ALL (TdT+, CD7+), respectively, while both markers are absent in acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML) and acute myelomonocytic and monocytic leukemia (AMML/AMoL). These observations contrast the findings which demonstrate that 31% of cases among nonlymphoid acute leukemia (including AML and AMML) express CD7 and/or TdT. The study of myeloid antigens detected by CD13, CD33, and CD14 is also informative and complementary, both in diagnosing and subdividing the AML and AMML/AMoL groups. The peculiar main observation of this study is that only with the combined use of these markers in a microplate assay for membrane antigens, followed by double staining for intracellular antigens such as terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase, cCD3, cCD22, c mu heavy chain, and T cell receptor beta, it is possible to safely establish the lineage affiliation and subgrouping of virtually all acute leukemias. Among these cases are those with aberrant combinations of markers, including 14% of B-lineage ALL (cCD22+,CD19+,TdT+) and a single case T-ALL (cCD3+,CD7+,TdT+), which exhibit CD13 and/or CD33 antigens, cases with mixtures of ALL and AML blasts, and 1.2% of acute leukemias which lack lineage affiliation and can be regarded as acute undifferentiated leukemia.

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