Recent studies suggest that lymphoid blast crisis cells of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) expressing the common acute lymphoblastic leukemia antigen (CALLA) are B precursor cells, based on the demonstration of immunoglobulin (Ig) gene rearrangement similar to common acute lymphocytic leukemia. There is little evidence to suggest whether the cells with similar lymphoid characteristics in the mixed blast crisis of CML are also committed to B cell lineage. A patient in “mixed” blast crisis of CML was studied. On the basis of morphology, cytochemistry, and immunological studies, the blasts were classified as having either lymphoid or myeloid characteristics. A proportion of the leukemic blasts expressed CALLA, whereas others expressed My7 antigen. In order to characterize both populations of cell further, CALLA+ blasts and My7+ (myeloid) blasts were isolated by fluorescence- activated cell sorting. The My7+ cells were highly proliferative in cell culture blast colony assays, retained the Ph1 chromosome, and were indistinguishable from acute myelogenous leukemia blasts. The CALLA+ cells were also Ph1-chromosome positive, but in contrast, were poorly proliferative in vitro. Of particular note was their retention of germline configuration of Ig genes, thus distinguishing them from blasts in the lymphoid crisis of CML. We conclude that the lymphoid component in mixed blast crisis may represent a stage of differentiation prior to commitment to B lineage.

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