A new quantitative immunoperoxidase method is presented for determining absolute amounts of peroxidase and, consequently, surface antigen densities of individual cells in B lymphocytes from normal individuals, from subjects with CLL and prolymphocytic leukemia, and during ontogeny of B lympocytes in the mouse. The following results were observed: (1) The density of B antigenic sites were lower on CLL than on normal B lymphocytes. (2) The B antigens density of leukemic lymphocytes varied less from cell to cell, forming a homogeneous peak on histograms. (3) In a very rare case of CLL, the antigen density was measured at the time of initial diagnosis (22,500 sites or 647 U) and during the development of a blastic crisis (135,000 sites or 2576 U). The cell by cell distribution changed from a homogeneous peak with a low number of antigenic sites per cell to a heterogeneous peak with a high number of antigenic sites per cell. (4) In prolymphocytic leukemia, the density of B antigenic sites was greater than on normal B lymphocytes and much more heterogeneous than on CLL lymphocytes. (5) During ontogeny of B lymphocytes in the mouse, maturation is associated with the appearance of a population of cells of intermediate to high Smig density. The finding of a decrease in, and altered distribution of, surface markers in CLL is compared with these ontologic findings in the mouse, and the concept that a monoclonal B lymphocyte in CLL may be arrested at a particular stage in its differentiation is discussed.

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