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Immunophenotypically defined stem cell subsets in paediatric AML are highly heterogeneous and demonstrate differences in BCL-2 expression by cytogenetic subgroups

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In adult acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), immunophenotypic differences enable discrimination of leukaemic stem cells (LSCs) from healthy haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). However, immunophenotypic stem cell characteristics are less explored in paediatric AML. Employing a 15-colour flow cytometry assay, we analysed the expression of eight aberrant surface markers together with BCL-2 on CD34+CD38 bone marrow stem cells from 38 paediatric AML patients and seven non-leukaemic, age-matched controls. Furthermore, clonality was investigated by genetic analyses of sorted immunophenotypically abnormal stem cells from six patients. A total of 50 aberrant marker positive (non-HSC-like) subsets with 41 different immunophenotypic profiles were detected. CD123, CLEC12A, and IL1RAP were the most frequently expressed markers. IL1RAP, CD93, and CD25 expression were not restricted to stem cells harbouring leukaemia-associated mutations. Differential BCL-2 expression was found among defined cytogenetic subgroups. Interestingly, only immunophenotypically abnormal non-HSC-like subsets demonstrated BCL-2 overexpression. Collectively, we observed pronounced immunophenotypic heterogeneity within the stem cell compartment of paediatric AML patients. Additionally, certain aberrant markers used in adults seemed to be ineligible for detection of leukaemia-representing stem cells in paediatric patients implying that inference from adult studies must be done with caution.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Haematology
Pages (from-to)452-466
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 British Society for Haematology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

    Research areas

  • AML stem cells, BCL-2, CD123, CLEC12A, IL1RAP, immunophenotyping, paediatric AML

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