Clonality assessment of lymphoproliferative disorders by multiparameter flow cytometry of paraffin-embedded tissue: an additional diagnostic tool in surgical pathology

Hum Pathol. 2000 Apr;31(4):422-7. doi: 10.1053/hp.2000.6551.


A major drawback of immunohistochemical detection of monoclonality in B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders is the lack of contrast between surface-immunoglobulin staining and extracellular immunoglobulin staining. To bypass this drawback, immunophenotyping of single-cell suspensions by flow cytometry is commonly used. Although the expression of immunoglobulin light chain subtype can be quantified rapidly and reliably, the technique is hampered by the requirement of fresh unfixed material. We applied a recently developed technique for the isolation of single cells from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded material to measure clonality in B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders (lymphoid tissue (n = 10) and non-Hodgkin's B-cell lymphoma (n = 10). Immunocytochemistry indicated that common cell surface markers as well as the immunoglobulin light chains could be detected in the cell suspensions derived from archival material. In addition, the technique also allowed combined high-resolution DNA flow cytometric analysis. To investigate the effect of formalin fixation on cross-linking of extracellular immunoglobulins to lymphocytes, a double-immunostaining experiment for both light chain immunoglobulins (kappa and lambda) was performed. This experiment showed that this cross-linking was minimal (less than 2%). All cases of reactive lymphoid hyperplasia were DNA diploid and showed a polyclonal expression of immunoglobulin light chains. In contrast, in 9 of 10 non-Hodgkin's B-cell lymphomas, monoclonality was established on the basis of light chain expression, whereas only 6 of 9 cases were conclusive by immunohistochemistry. Four of the 9 cases were DNA aneuploid. One case did not show light chain expression at all by both techniques. However, this case could be classified as malignant by flow cytometric analysis because of the DNA-aneuploid nature of the B-cell subpopulation. The average S-phase fraction (SPF) of the B cells in the reactive lymphoid tissues was 3.5%. The mean SPF values for B cells in DNA-diploid cases of lymphomas was 3.0%, whereas the mean SPF of B cells in DNA-aneuploid cases was 6.1%. The presented technique is superior to immunohistochemistry for the detection of monoclonality in B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders and therefore provides a powerful tool to support the diagnosis of malignant lymphoma in routinely processed archival samples of lymphoid tissues.

MeSH terms

  • Aneuploidy
  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • CD3 Complex / analysis
  • CD79 Antigens
  • Cell Separation
  • Clone Cells
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin kappa-Chains / metabolism
  • Immunoglobulin lambda-Chains / metabolism
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology*
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / genetics*
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / metabolism
  • Lymphoma, B-Cell / pathology
  • Paraffin Embedding
  • Pathology, Surgical
  • Pseudolymphoma / genetics*
  • Pseudolymphoma / metabolism
  • Pseudolymphoma / pathology
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell / analysis


  • Antigens, CD
  • CD3 Complex
  • CD79 Antigens
  • CD79A protein, human
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Immunoglobulin kappa-Chains
  • Immunoglobulin lambda-Chains
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell