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Blood. 1995 May 15;85(10):2839-44.

Hairy cell identification by immunohistochemistry of tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase.

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Medicine Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Louisville, KY 40206, USA.


Tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAcP) has been an indispensible marker for hairy cell leukemia (HCL) for over two decades. However, the traditional TRAcP cytochemical stain cannot be performed effectively on sections of paraffin-embedded tissues that are important resources for histopathologic evaluation in diagnosis and treatment of HCL. Wide variation in expression of TRAcP activity by hairy cells (HCs) within and among patients is an interesting biologic phenomenon that has not been explained and can cause some diagnostic uncertainty as well. To solve the problem of staining TRAcP in paraffin sections and to begin to address the questions of variable TRAcP expression in HCL, we developed a monoclonal antibody to TRAcP, 9C5, for immunohistochemical identification of HCs. In smears of blood and bone marrow, immunocytochemistry of TRAcP using 9C5 was as specific but slightly less sensitive than direct cytochemical staining of enzymatic activity. In paraffin sections of spleen and bone marrow from HCL patients, immunohistochemistry with 9C5 stained the HCs with high sensitivity and specificity and clearly showed the characteristic diffuse infiltration by HCs. Other cells noted to stain strongly with 9C5 were occasional macrophages in bone marrow smears and osteoclasts and occasional tissue macrophages in paraffin sections. These are cells known to express abundant TRAcP activity. Immunohistochemistry with anti-TRAcP monoclonal antibody 9C5 may have utility as an added option in the diagnosis of HCL, as a means to evaluate residual disease in HCL patients undergoing new treatments, and as a way to address questions regarding variable expression of TRAcP activity by HCs within and among patients with HCL. Also, 9C5 has potential as a reagent for the immunoassay of bone-derived serum TRAcP in patients with certain bone diseases and cancers with bone metastasis.

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