Using immunohistochemistry, we investigated the expression of c-mpl in bone marrow megakaryocytes of 88 patients with essential thrombocythemia (ET), 6 patients with secondary thrombocytosis (ST), and 20 patients with lymphoma (controls). Considering both the pattern of expression and the staining intensity, we identified a uniform and a heterogeneous pattern of c-mpl expression. The uniform pattern was found in all the controls, all the patients with ST, and 28 of the patients with ET, with a strong staining intensity observed in most megakaryocytes (> 80%). In contrast, c-mpl expression was heterogeneous in 60 patients with ET, 18 of whom (30%) presented with thrombosis at diagnosis, a significant difference from patients with a uniform c-mpl pattern (2 of 28; 7%; P = .026). In particular, the overrepresentation of thrombotic complications in patients with a heterogeneous c-mpl expression pattern was found mainly among patients with a significant percentage (10% to 40%) of weakly stained or c-mpl-negative megakaryocytes (heterogeneous-weak pattern; 13 of 30; 43%; P = .002). Accordingly, this pattern was associated with a 6.1-fold increased risk of thrombosis compared with that of patients with a uniform c-mpl pattern. In conclusion, the presence of a heterogeneous pattern of c-mpl distribution in bone marrow megakaryocytes could be a useful diagnostic criterion in the differential diagnosis of thrombocytosis. Furthermore, detection of a significant percentage of weakly stained or c-mpl-negative megakaryocytes can identify patients with a higher risk of thrombosis.
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