Blast cells from 20 patients with acute leukemia (13 diagnosed myeloblastic and 7 as lymphoblastic, using the FAB classification) were studied using antibodies to lineage-specific differentiation markers. The phenotypic findings were usually consistent with the clinical diagnosis. However, examples were encountered where individual blast cells had a cytoplasmic marker of one lineage and a surface marker of a different lineage (lineage infidelity). Six examples of intramyeloid (two different myeloid lineages in the same cell) and three examples of interlineage infidelity (myeloid and lymphoid markers in the same blast cell) were encountered. No doubly marked cells were found in control material consisting of normal marrow cells, marrow regenerating after transplantation, or multilineage colonies derived from marrow in culture. A significant trend was observed relating the presence of lineage infidelity and failure of remission-induction. The data are interpreted as support for abnormal gene expression in leukemia.

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