Abstract

The possibility to detect markers of T-cell clonality at the T-cell receptor (TCR) beta and gamma loci in skin biopsy samples has proven to be helpful for the often difficult clinical and immunohistochemical diagnosis of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). However, particularly at the early stage of the neoplastic infiltration, an emerging clonal pattern at Southern may be obscured by the germline TCR configuration of the predominant dermal and epidermal cell component. Additionally, multiple TCR gamma rearranged bands of variable intensity are often observed, either in the presence or in the absence of a major clone. To overcome these difficulties, we have investigated the T-lymphocyte clonality in selected patients with variable signs of CTCL by means of heteroduplex analysis of the amplified TCR gamma VJ junctions, separated in nondenaturing polyacrylamide gel. This technique has several advantages over standard Southern blot because it is simple, rapid, not radioactive, and likely more sensitive than other polymerase chain reaction-based procedures. In particular, the cases with uncertain or contradictory TCR beta and gamma patterns were solved by the heteroduplex analysis, showing homoduplex or heteroduplex bands of clonal nature. The direct sequence of the VJ junctions, easily obtained from the homoduplex or heteroduplex bands, allowed us to confirm the same clonal marker in two apparently different skin lesions and in different biopsy samples obtained from the same patients, either at the same or different time points, thus emphasizing the utility of this method in monitoring CTCL clinical progression.

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