Objective: CD27, a member of the TNF receptor family, plays an important role in lymphoid proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis. This study addresses the expression of CD27 and its ligand, CD70, in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and the possible role of this receptor-ligand pair in the pathogenesis of ALL.
Patients and methods: Expression of CD27 and CD70 was evaluated with three-color flow cytometry in blood and bone marrow (BM) samples in children with ALL and controls. The biological role of these molecules on leukemic cell proliferation was studied in an in vitro culture system.
Results: The expression of the membrane bound CD27, as well as membrane bound CD70, on CD19(+) cells in the BM was significantly increased in ALL children compared to the expression found in the controls. Importantly, a substantial reduction in the in vitro proliferation of leukemic cells could be observed when the leukemic cells were cultured in presence of a blocking anti-human CD70 monoclonal antibody. The level of soluble CD27 (sCD27) in serum was also investigated and found to be significantly elevated in leukemic children as compared to healthy children.
Conclusion: The high expression of CD27 and CD70 on ALL cells may represent an amplification of the normal CD27-CD70 expression present on early B cell progenitors. Our finding suggests that interference with CD27-CD70 interaction may represent novel treatment opportunities in ALL. Further studies are required to pin-point the role of this receptor-ligand pair in normal and malignant hematopoiesis.