• flow cytometry;
  • PNH;
  • GPI-linked proteins;
  • PrPc expression

The cellular isoform of the prion protein (PrPC) is a cell surface glycoprotein attached to the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane by a glycosylphosphatidyl-inositol (GPI) anchor. PrPC is involved in the pathogenesis of prion diseases and has recently been shown to play a role in haemopoietic cell activation and proliferation. We have used the PrPC-specific monoclonal antibody (mAb) 3F4 in a flow cytometry approach to analyse the constitutive expression of PrPC on human peripheral blood (PB) cell populations from patients with paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH), which are characterized by a deficiency of GPI-linked cell surface proteins. Comparable PrPC expression levels (P > 0·05), quantified as mean fluorescent intensity, were measured on lymphocytes isolated from normal donors (n = 10) and patients with PNH (n = 5), whereas PNH PB monocytes and granulocytes exhibited substantially lower PrPC surface immunoreactivity than their normal counterparts (P < 0·05). More detailed histogram analyses of the PNH PB leucocytes revealed that PrPC was absent in PNH granulocytes, but was normally expressed in lymphocytes from four out of five patients. However, in one patient a bimodal distribution of 3F4 mAb staining was observed, indicating the presence of a PrPC-deficient lymphocyte subpopulation. In conclusion, our results show that PNH haemopoietic cells are deficient in cell surface-bound PrPC.