The leucocyte common antigen, protein tyrosine phosphatase receptor type C (PTPRC), also known as CD45, is a transmembrane glycoprotein, expressed on almost all haematopoietic cells except for mature erythrocytes, and is an essential regulator of T and B cell antigen receptor-mediated activation. Disruption of the equilibrium between protein tyrosine kinase and phosphatase activity (from CD45 and others) can result in immunodeficiency, autoimmunity, or malignancy. CD45 is normally present on the cell surface, therefore it works upstream of a large signalling network which differs between cell types, and thus the effects of CD45 on these cells are also different. However, it is becoming clear that CD45 plays an essential role in the innate immune system and this is likely to be a key area for future research. In this review of PTPRC (CD45), its structure and biological activities as well as abnormal expression of CD45 in leukaemia and lymphoma will be discussed.