Current concepts: large granular lymphocyte leukemia

Blood Rev. 1999 Dec;13(4):230-40. doi: 10.1054/blre.1999.0118.


Clonal diseases of large granular lymphocyte (LGL) disorders can arise from a CD3+ T-cell lineage or from a CD3- NK-cell lineage. CD3+ LGL leukemia is the most frequent form of LGL leukemia. T-LGL leukemia usually affects elderly people. Approximately 60% of patients are symptomatic; recurrent infections secondary to chonic neutropenia, anemia, and rheumatoid arthrititis are the main clinical manifestations. The most common phenotype is CD3+, alphabeta+, CD8+, CD57+. Clonality is detected by clonal rearrangement of the T-cell receptor gene. NK-cell LGL proliferative disorders include NK LGL leukemia which is a very aggressive disease and NK chronic lymphocytosis. Serologic findings show frequent reactivity to the BA21 epitope of HTLV-I env p21e, suggesting that a cellular or retroviral protein with homology to BA21 may be important in pathogenesis of these diseases. Clonal expansion may be facilitated by IL12 and IL15 cytokines expressed by leukemic LGL, and also by a defective Fas (CD95) apoptotic pathway. Leukemic LGL constitutively express Fas and Fas-Ligand but they are resistant to Fas-induced apotosis. Neutropenia could be due to soluble Fas-Ligand which is highly secreted in the patient's sera. Clinical and molecular remission can be obtained with oral low-dose methotrexate. Leukemic LGL express a multi-drug resistance phenotype (PgP+/LRP+) that could partly explain the chemoresistance observed in aggressive cases. It is suggested that LGL leukemia can serve as a useful model of dysregulated apoptosis as an underlying mechanism for both malignancy and autoimmune disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / blood
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology
  • CD3 Complex / analysis
  • Cell Lineage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / classification
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / etiology
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / immunology*
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / classification
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / etiology
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / therapy
  • Male
  • Phenotype


  • CD3 Complex