That most patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) have either very low levels or no leukocyte alkaline phosphatase activity (LAP) is an established fact. In view of our new findings7 that normal mature human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) contain two types of granules, azurophils (1/3) and specifics (2/3), and that alkaline phosphatase is present only in specific granules, we undertook the present studies to determine whether these neoplastic PMN lack a specific granule population or simply lack the enzyme. The cellular buffy coats of five patients with CML (Ph1 plus, LAP minus) were fixed in glutaraldehyde, incubated for peroxidase to identify the azurophil population, and examined by electron microscopy. It was found that the specific granule population was present in all mature PMN. Counts of both azurophil and specific granules per cell were slightly lower than normal but were within an 80%-90% overlap of the normal range. We therefore conclude that the low level of LAP in patients with CML reflects a deficiency of the enzyme rather than a missing granule population. Although the mature PMN appeared relatively normal (with few exceptions), circulating myeloblasts and promyelocytes revealed several abnormalities, the most notable being the presence of large bundles of cytoplasmic microfilaments. The blood of two patients in the terminal phase of disease was reexamined. Most of their cells were immature, with aberrations similar to those in myeloblasts and promyelocytes in the chronic phase of the disorder. In addition, however, we discovered three adnormal populations of mature PMN: (1) PMN containing both populations of granules but lacking peroxidase, (2) PMN lacking specific granules, and (3) PMN lacking azurophil granules. Our findings emphasize the value of electron microscopy and cytochemistry in detecting abnormalities of maturation in the cytoplasm of leukemic PMN.

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