The labelling index of primitive plasma cells determines the clinical behaviour of patients with myelomatosis

Br J Haematol. 1996 Jul;94(1):76-81. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2141.1996.d01-1784.x.


For patients with multiple myeloma the most important laboratory correlate of prognosis and disease activity is the bromodeoxyuridine (BrdUrd) plasma cell labelling index (LI). However, the traditional immunofluorescent microscope LI technique, like other manual enumeration assays, can suffer from poor precision and accuracy. In this study the LI of different subpopulations of plasma cells (CD38++) as determined by flow cytometry was correlated with disease state. The mean LI of the total CD38++ population was significantly higher (2.7 +/- 0.4%) than the LI determined by the traditional slide technique (0.6 +/- 0.1%) for 65 samples tested. Primitive plasma cells (CD38++, CD45++) had a higher labelling index than mature plasma cells (CD38++, CD45-) (7.0 +/- 1.3% v 1.8% +/- 0.3%) and in one patient the LI of the primitive plasma cells was 46%. In addition, the LI of the mature plasma cells was lower than the total plasma cell population. As expected, there was a significant difference between the LI of patients in plateau phase and progressive disease but this difference was greatest when the LI of the primitive plasma cells was studied (9.2 +/- 2.9% v 2.2 +/- 0.7%; z = 19.9, P < 0.001). This study has raised some concerns about the sensitivity and accuracy of the traditional labelling index and has shown that the increased LI associated with progressive disease is almost entirely attributable to an increase in the LI of the primitive plasma cell subpopulation and that the LI of primitive plasma cells provides a more clinically significant correlation with disease status than the traditional assay.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase
  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1
  • Antigens, CD*
  • Antigens, Differentiation / analysis
  • Cell Division
  • Disease Progression
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / analysis
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Multiple Myeloma / pathology*
  • N-Glycosyl Hydrolases / analysis
  • Plasma Cells / pathology*
  • Prognosis


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens
  • N-Glycosyl Hydrolases
  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase
  • CD38 protein, human
  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1