Phorbol ester induces abnormal chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells to express features of hairy cell leukemia

Blood. 1985 Nov;66(5):1035-42.


We have investigated the relationship between chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), hairy cell leukemia (HCL), and different normal B cell subsets: Mrbc+, T1+ and slgM+ tonsil cells; germinal center; mantle zone; and peripheral blood B lymphocytes. Both malignant and normal cells were incubated in vitro with the phorbol ester 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) for 72 hours and the morphology, cytochemical profile, and surface markers were evaluated. The results show that CLL cells TPA-induced become indistinguishable from HCL by four independent criteria: the morphology; the cytoplasmic tartrate resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) enzyme activity; the membrane positivity with anti-Leu M5 (SHCL3); and anti-Tac monoclonal antibodies which, in the uninduced state, react only with HCL. The features of TRAP and Tac positivity are also expressed (though in variable degree) by different normal B cell populations activated with TPA or pokeweed mitogen (PWM). It is concluded that HCL might represent an aberrantly activated variant of CLL (or of a CLL-related disorder).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Aged
  • B-Lymphocytes / classification
  • Bone Marrow Cells
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Embryonal Carcinoma Stem Cells
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Hairy Cell / blood*
  • Leukemia, Lymphoid / pathology
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitogens / pharmacology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells* / drug effects
  • Phorbol Esters / pharmacology*


  • Mitogens
  • Phorbol Esters
  • Acid Phosphatase