Individual leukemic cells and the corresponding rare normal cell types in nonleukemic bone marrow were analyzed with various combinations of antisera (labeled with different fluorochromes: TRITC and FITC). Double staining for membrane Ia-like molecules (TRITC) and nuclear terminal transferase (FITC) was a very useful combination that distinguished common non-T, non-B ALL (Ia+,TdT+) and thymic ALL (Ia-,TdT+) from the rare cases of B ALL (Ia+,TdT-) and from AML (frequently Ia+, TdT-; in some cases Ia-, TdT-). Additional antisera (such as anti-ALL, anti- HuTLA, anti-immunoglobulin reagents, etc.) confirmed the diagnosis and further characterized the leukemic blasts. Ia+,TdT+ cells could be observed in low numbers in normal and nonleukemic regenerating marrow and were probably normal precursor cells; this reagent combinations was, therefore, not useful for monitoring residual non-T, non-B ALL blasts in treated patients. Other marker combinations detecting pre-B ALL blasts (double staining for cytoplasmic IgM and nuclear TdT) and Thy-ALL blasts (HuTLA+,TdT+) were, however, virtually leukemia specific in the bone marrow and could be used to effectively monitor residual leukemic cells throughout the disease. These combined single-cell assays are not only economical and informative but are also important for assessing the heterogeneity of leukemia and for standardizing new mouse or rat monoclonal antibodies for diagnosis.

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