Chronic lymphocytic leukemia of T-cell origin (T-CLL), a rare variant of CLL, appears to be a clonal proliferation of mature T cells of one of several subsets. In the cells of 7 T-CLL patients, surface markers (including those reacting with a panel of monoclonal antibodies), functional activities, and electron microscopic morphology were evaluated. The phenotypic patterns of circulating T-CLL cells correspond to those of normal mature T-cell subsets. The cells of three patients demonstrated at least one marker reported to be expressed by suppressor/cytotoxic T cells: those of three patients expressed markers apparently linked with T-helper activity. Cells from one patient appeared to be a heterogeneous proliferation of more than one T-cell subset. These T-CLL cells may also retain some of the functional activity of the normal T subpopulations. Our data indicate that a combination of several tests should be used to characterize the proliferating cells in T-CLL.

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