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J Pathol. 1997 May;182(1):86-91.

Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase staining of malignant lymphomas in paraffin sections: a useful method for the diagnosis of lymphoblastic lymphoma.

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First Department of Pathology, Fukuoka University, School of Medicine, Japan.


Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) is a DNA polymerase located in the cell nucleus which catalyses the polymerization of deoxynucleotides at the 3'hydroxyl ends of oligo- or polydeoxynucleotide initiators without a template. TdT is known as a useful marker for the diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia/lymphoma, but its detection usually requires fresh tissue specimens or cell suspensions, using either an enzyme analysis or immuno-fluorescence or -peroxidase staining. Until the recent development of the use of microwave-treated paraffin sections for immunoperoxidase staining, detection of TdT in paraffin sections required rather complicated processes. This new simple technique was applied to paraffin sections from the tumour tissue specimens of 16 patients with lymphoblastic lymphoma and of seven patients with non-endemic Burkitt's lymphoma, which is sometimes difficult to differentiate from lymphoblastic lymphoma because of their similar clinicopathological characteristics. In addition, as a control, ten cases each were examined of adult T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma (ATLL) and angioimmunoblastic lymphoma (AILD), which are both peripheral T-cell lymphomas. The tumour cells from 15 of the 16 (94 per cent) patients with lymphoblastic lymphoma were found to be TdT-positive. The specificity of the anti-TdT antibody used was confirmed by immunoblot and the specific 60 kD band was detected only in a specimen of lymphoblastic lymphoma. These results show that the immunostaining of TdT on paraffin-embedded sections is a useful method for differentiating lymphoblastic lymphoma from other lymphomas. This method is applicable to a routine diagnostic service.

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