The diagnosis of hairy cell leukemia was made in three patients by phase-contrast microscopy and histochemistry of the abnormal peripheral blood cells. Both IgM and IgD surface immunoglobulins were resynthesized after these cells were trypsinized and cultured. Aggregate or Fc receptors were demonstrated on hairy cells. The ability to phagocytose latex was also a property of hairy cells; however, these cells did not demonstrate nonspecific esterase activity. Stimulation by phytohemagglutinin resulted in very low incorporation of tritiated thymidine. Cytofluorographic analysis of the phytohemagglutinin- stimulated cell population revealed less than 9% of the cells in an interploid or tetraploid state. The abnormal mitogen response was largely restored when purified T lymphocytes obtained from the peripheral blood of the patients were cultured with phytohemagglutinin. Hairy cells cultured with normal allogeneic mononuclear cells did not undergo blast transformation. These data strongly suggest that the cells of at least some patients with hairy cell leukemia are B lymphocytes with phagocytic capabilities.

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