FLT3, a receptor belonging to the FMS/KIT family and localized to 13q12, could play a role in the biology of early hematopoietic progenitor cells. Because FMS and KIT are expressed in both normal progenitors and myeloid leukemias, we looked for FLT3 expression in fresh human leukemic cells using Northern blot analysis. High levels of FLT3 expression were detected in 92% of the cases of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) tested, ranging from the M1 to the M5 stages of differentiation assessed in the French-American-British classification. Immature (MO) AML cells, biphenotypic leukemias, and AML with megakaryocytic differentiation (M7 subtype) also expressed the FLT3 transcript. FLT3 was also expressed at high levels in acute lymphoid leukemias of T and B origins. Finally, it was not expressed in chronic myeloid leukemias in chronic phase, whereas it was expressed in most blast crisis samples. This pattern of expression of FLT3 contrasts with the expression of FMS and KIT restricted to myeloid leukemias, and suggests that the FLT3 product could play a role in the expansion of the leukemic blasts of both the myeloid and lymphoid lineages.
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