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Indian J Pathol Microbiol. 2019 Jul-Sep;62(3):418-422. doi: 10.4103/IJPM.IJPM_604_18.

Role of CD71 in acute leukemia- An immunophenotypic marker for erythroid lineage or proliferation?

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Department of Pathology, Sri Guru Ram Rai Institute of Medical and Health Sciences, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India.



CD71 or Transferrin receptor is expressed on the surface of erythroid lineage cells. CD71 expression has been found to be significantly increased in rapidly proliferating cells.


This cross-sectional study included 37 bone marrow samples of acute leukemia cases diagnosed between October 2016 to April 2018. The samples were analysed on BD FACS Canto II. We evaluated the expression of CD71 on leukemic blasts and compared median fluorescent intensities (MFI) of blasts in different types of acute leukemias.


The 37 cases comprised of 21 Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), 13 B-Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (B-ALL), 2 T- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (T-ALL) and 1 mixed phenotypic acute leukemia (MPAL), T/Myeloid. CD 71 expression was noted in 70.3% (n= 26/37) of acute leukemia cases. CD71 expression was most commonly observed in AML (n= 15/21;71.4%), followed by B-ALL (n= 9/13;69.2%) and T-ALL (n= 1/2;50%). Single case of MPAL revealed blasts positive for CD71. MFI of leukemic blasts of single CD71 positive T-ALL was found to be highest, followed by AML, MPAL (T/Myeloid) and least in B ALL. Of the AML cases, the blasts of AML-M6, acute promyelocytic leukemia and AML-M1 showed higher CD71 expression in terms of MFI.


Surface CD71 expression is not only found in erythroid lineage cells, but also in proliferating cells. CD71 MFI is highest in T lymphoblasts followed by leukemic erythroblasts, myeloblasts and least in B lymphoblasts.


Acute leukemia; CD71; acute lymphoblastic leukemia; acute myeloid leukemia; median fluorescent intensity; mixed phenotypic acute leukemia

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