Since vimentin intermediate filament (IF) expression in hemopoietic cells varies with the cell lineage as well as the state of differentiation of the cells, we studied the vimentin cytoskeleton by direct immunofluorescence and electron microscopy in 50 cases of acute nonlymphocytic leukemias. We found that malignant cells tend to reproduce the vimentin organization characteristic of their normal cellular counterpart. Thus, in M2 and M3 leukemias (French-American- British classification), vimentin was often reduced to a juxtanuclear bundle of filaments contrasting with the rich filamentous network expressed by M4 or M5 leukemias. In erythroblastic leukemias (M6) and megakaryoblastic leukemias, both identified by the expression of lineage-specific antigens, the absence of vimentin IFs could be correlated with the level of differentiation reached by the blasts. M1 leukemias displayed an abnormal pattern of vimentin organization with aggregated filaments giving a ring-like structure. However, no abnormality of the vimentin polypeptide could be detected by two- dimensional electrophoresis. These results show that the expression of the vimentin IF cytoskeleton may be a useful marker of differentiation in the study of leukemic cells.

This content is only available as a PDF.