Low level CD20 expression on T cell malignancies

Cytometry. 1994 Jun 15;18(2):88-92. doi: 10.1002/cyto.990180206.


Although initially thought to be a B lineage restricted antigen, low "density" or antibody binding capacity (ABC) CD20 has recently been detected on subset(s) of normal T lymphocytes (Hultin et al.: Cytometry 14:196-204, 1993). We report low ABC CD20 expression in three (two children, one adult) cases of T-acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). CD20 and other pertinent antigens were detected using a direct dual color method with a Becton Dickinson FACScan flow cytometer and Simulset software. Only one cell population based on light scatter was noted in each case that immunophenotypically represented almost a pure population of malignant cells expressing T lymphocyte antigens (for example, CD7 98%, 92%, and 100%, respectively). A total of 95%, 87%, and 79% of the cells from the three cases expressed CD20 with an unusual low ABC compared to the customary "bright" CD20 expression on normal B lymphocytes. Other B lymphocyte associated antigens, such as CD19, CD22, Dr, and immunoglobulin light chains, were negative. Eleven other T lymphocytic malignancies from 1991 to 1993 were CD20 negative, including three other case of T-ALL (one adult and two children). One unusual case of intestinal small lymphocytic non-Hodgkin's lymphoma with a natural killer/T lymphocytic immunophenotype not described in this report appeared to be CD20"dim"+. Low ABC CD20 expression by T lymphocytic malignancies may provide a more unique immunophenotypic "fingerprint" to help support the diagnosis of T cell neoplasia vs. normal/reactive T cells (for example, low ABC CD20 cells represent only 2.4 +/- 1.5% of normal peripheral blood lymphocytes). This characteristic might also facilitate monitoring patients for residual or recurrent disease.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, CD / analysis*
  • Antigens, CD20
  • Antigens, Differentiation, B-Lymphocyte / analysis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell / diagnosis
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell / immunology*
  • Leukemia-Lymphoma, Adult T-Cell / pathology
  • Male
  • Software
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / pathology


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, CD20
  • Antigens, Differentiation, B-Lymphocyte