Molecular and immunological evidence of B-cell commitment in 'null' acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

R. Foa, N. Migone, G. Basso, G. Cattoretti, G. Pizzolo, F. Lauria, G. Casorati, M. C. Giubellino, F. Capuzzo, A. Cantù-Rajnoldi

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The DNA configuration of the immunoglobulin (Ig) heavy and light chain genes and the expression of B-cell-related markers were evaluated in 13 cases of non-T, non-B, non-common ('null') acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). A rearrangement of the Ig heavy-chain gene was found in all cases studied; in 5 of these a structural reorganization of the κ or λ light chain gene was also demonstrated. Leukaemic cells from 10 of the 13 cases analysed showed one or more B-cell antigens, the expression of which followed a sequential order of presentation (OKB2, B4, BA-1, B1). The B-cell commitment was confirmed by means of a sensitive immunoperoxidase assay which revealed a weak expression of the common ALL (cALL) antigen in 7/10 cases tested, which were all cALL-negative by conventional immunofluorescence techniques. These findings suggest that in 'null' ALL the neoplastic cells show molecular and immunological evidence of B-cell differentiation and that most cases may indeed be characterized by 'early' cALL with a very low density expression of the cALL antigen. This was further documented in one case in which the expression of the cALL antigen (and of other B-cell markers) could be induced after exposure to 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA). The presence in a few cases of myeloid features, particularly when the cALL antigen could not be demonstrated by the immunoperoxidase assay, suggests that the leukaemic process may sometimes involve a very early progenitor cell capable of both lymphoid and myeloid phenotypic differentiation. The heterogeneity of 'null' ALL documented by this study may help to explain the variable clinical course and prognosis of these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-323
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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