CD94 1A transcripts characterize lymphoblastic lymphoma/leukemia of immature natural killer cell origin with distinct clinical features

Blood. 2005 Nov 15;106(10):3567-74. doi: 10.1182/blood-2005-02-0519. Epub 2005 Jul 26.


Most lymphoblastic lymphomas (LBLs) are regarded as neoplasms of immature T cells because they express cytoplasmic CD3 and frequently carry T-cell receptor (TCR) gene rearrangements. Immature natural killer (NK) and T cells, however, have a common bipotent T/NK-cell precursor in the thymus, and NK cells also express cytoplasmic CD3. Thus, some LBLs could arise from immature NK cells. Mature NK cells express 2 CD94 transcripts: 1A, induced by interleukin 15 (IL-15), and 1B constitutively. Because immature NK cells require IL-15 for development, CD94 1A transcripts could be a marker of NK-LBL. To test this hypothesis, we used laser capture microdissection to isolate IL-15 receptor alpha(+) lymphoid cells from the thymus and showed that these cells contained CD94 1A transcripts. We then assessed for CD94 transcripts in 21 cases of LBL that were cytoplasmic CD3(+), nuclear terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase positive (TdT(+)), and CD56(-), consistent with either the T-cell or NK-cell lineage. We found that 7 LBLs expressed CD94 1A transcripts without TCR gene rearrangements, suggesting NK-cell lineage. Patients with NK-LBL were younger than patients with T-LBL (15 years versus 33 years; P = .11) and had a better 2-year survival (100% versus 27%; P < .01). These results improve the current classification of LBL and contribute to our understanding of NK-cell differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • CD3 Complex / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Leukemic*
  • Gene Rearrangement, T-Lymphocyte
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interleukin-15 / metabolism
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / pathology
  • Leukemia / metabolism*
  • Leukemia / mortality
  • Leukemia / pathology
  • Male
  • Microdissection / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily D / biosynthesis*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / metabolism*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / mortality
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-15
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Thymus Gland / metabolism
  • Thymus Gland / pathology


  • CD3 Complex
  • IL15RA protein, human
  • Interleukin-15
  • KLRD1 protein, human
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily D
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Interleukin-15
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2