Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Phenotypic analysis of hairy cell leukemia: "variant" cases express the interleukin-2 receptor beta chain, but not the alpha chain (CD25)

  1. D de Totero,
  2. PL Tazzari,
  3. F Lauria,
  4. D Raspadori,
  5. PF di Celle,
  6. A Carbone,
  7. M Gobbi, and
  8. R Foa
  1. Instituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italy.


Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is a B-cell chronic lymphoproliferative disorder in which the pathologic cells show a strong expression of CD25 (interleukin-2 [IL-2] receptor alpha chain or p55). “Variant” cases of HCL, characterized by hyperleukocytosis, neoplastic elements with a prominent nucleolus and a higher nucleo/cytoplasmic ratio, and an easily obtained bone marrow aspirate, lack surface CD25 determinants. Limited information is available on the expression of the IL-2 receptor beta chain (p75) on normal and neoplastic B cells. In this study, we have assessed by immunofluorescence and mRNA analysis the presence of the IL-2 receptor alpha and beta chains on 12 cases of classic HCL, as well as on 3 variant cases. The results obtained show that, while the alpha chain of the IL-2 receptor is present only on classic HCL, the IL- 2 receptor beta chain (p75) is expressed on both the classic and variant form. Unlike hairy cells, only 8 of the 15 B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia cases tested showed a weak expression of the p75 antigen on a small proportion of cells. Purified B lymphocytes from normal healthy controls, as well as Epstein-Barr virus-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines, showed a weak staining for the p75 determinant, while being CD25-. The results of this study suggest that the expression of the alpha and beta chains of the IL-2 receptor appears to be upregulated or downregulated during the process of B-cell- lineage activation and differentiation.