The diagnosis of AML with monocytic differentiation is limited by the lack of highly sensitive and specific monocytic markers. Immunoglobulin-like transcript 3 (ILT3) is an immune inhibitory receptor expressed by myelomonocytic cells and at high levels by tolerogenic dendritic cells.
Using flow cytometry, we analyzed the expression of ILT3 in 37 patients with AML and 20 patients with no detectable disease.
We showed that ILT3 was expressed in all cases of AML displaying monocytic differentiation (FAB M4/M5; N = 18), but not in AML M1/M2 and M3 (N = 19; P < 0.0001). Co-expression of ILT3 and immature cell markers, such as CD34 and CD117, was observed in monoblastic leukemia. ILT3 expression was preserved after treatment in M4/M5 patients with refractory or relapsed disease. ILT3 expression was associated with the presence of cytogenetic abnormalities linked to an intermediate prognosis (P = 0.001). Rare CD45dimCD34+CD117+ILT3+ cells were identified in noninvolved bone marrow, suggesting that ILT3 expression is acquired at an early stage by normal myelomonocytic precursors.
ILT3 is a highly sensitive and specific marker which distinguishes AML with monocytic differentiation from other types of AML. Testing of ILT3 expression should be incorporated into the initial diagnostic work-up and monitoring of patients with AML. © 2012 International Clinical Cytometry Society