Spontaneous intramedullary apoptosis is present in disorders other than myelodysplasia

A E Irvine, M K Magill, L E Somerville, M F McMullin

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is a group of hematopoietic disorders characterized by peripheral cytopenias in the presence of normo- or hypercellular dysplastic marrow. It has been suggested that premature intramedullary apoptosis may contribute to this phenomenon. We used terminal dUTP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) of bone marrow biopsy specimens and cytocentrifuge preparations from patients with MDS and a variety of other hematopoietic disorders to determine whether there is increased intramedullary apoptosis in MDS and whether any such effect is specific to MDS. TUNEL labeling of bone marrow from 24 patients with MDS revealed significant positivity in 10 of 11 patients with refractory anemia (RA), five of seven with RA and excess of blasts (RAEB), all three patients with RAEB in transformation (RAEB-t), and all three patients with RA with ring sideroblasts (RARS). The percent of positive cells ranged from 5 to 50% but showed no apparent correlation with morphological subtype. In a series of 29 patients with acute leukemia, 17 showed significant positivity (13 of 13 with myeloid disease: three M1, seven M2, one M3, two M4; four of 16 patients with lymphoid disease: one Burkitt-type lymphoma, two null acute leukemia, and one common acute lymphoid leukemia). Intramedullary apoptosis was associated with myeloid or early committed progenitor cells and was highest in secondary acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Normal bone marrow samples from 12 individuals showed no evidence of apoptosis. Our results suggest that an increased level of intramedullary apoptosis is apparent in both patients with MDS and those with AML; those with secondary AML have the highest levels. The relative absence of such findings in lymphoid malignancy suggests that the apoptotic pathways are different in this lineage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-439
Number of pages5
JournalExperimental Hematology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1998


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