Diagnosis of paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria using immunophenotyping of peripheral blood cells


Professor Dr R. E. Schmidt, Abt. Immunologie und Transfusionsmedizin, Zentrum Innere Medizin und Dermatologie, Medizinische Hochschule, Postfach 610180, D-3000 Hannover 61, Germany.


Paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH) is now generally accepted as a disease in which bone marrow derived cells are deficient in phosphatidylinositolglycan (PIG)-anchored surface molecules. A series of new monoclonal antibodies detecting PIG-anchored surface structures on human leucocytes (CD48, CD55, CD59) has recently been described. In the present study 12 patients with the diagnosis PNH and a positive Ham test were examined for PIG-anchored surface antigen expression on various cell lineages using immunofluorescence. In all patients deficient cells were detected in erythrocyte, granulocyte and monocyte analysis. A deficient lymphocyte subset was also observed in all but one of these patients. Using two-colour analysis, all lymphocyte subpopulations such as T, B and NK cells were found to be affected. In addition, peripheral blood cells of 22 patients with severe aplastic anaemia (SAA) were tested for the PIG-anchoring defect. In five of these patients the defect was detected, and in four of the five the lack of PIG-anchored molecules was confined to the granulocyte and monocyte lineages apparently without affecting the erythrocytes. The results of these studies demonstrate that cytofluorographic testing of peripheral blood cells provides a simple and reliable method for establishing the diagnosis of PNH. Furthermore, especially in the case of aplastic anaemia patients, the sensitivity of immunophenotyping might be superior to conventional laboratory tests.