Assessment of clonality in cutaneous lymphoid infiltrates by polymerase chain reaction analysis of immunoglobulin heavy chain gene rearrangement

Jon H. Ritter, Mark R. Wick, Paula N. Adesokan, James F. Fitzgibbon, Xiaopei Zhu, Peter A. Humphrey

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46 Scopus citations


Determination of the biologic potential of cutaneous lymphoid infiltrates may be difficult by standard histologic or immunohistologic examination. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has been used to document clonal rearrangements of the immunoglobulin heavy chain gene in paraffin- embedded fixed tissues. To explore the value of PCR in evaluation of cutaneous lymphoid infiltrates, 93 archival nonmycotic lymphoid lesions (28 small or mixed lymphocytic lymphomas, 15 large cell lymphomas, 40 benign infiltrates, and 10 with atypical features) were analyzed. These cases had been previously immunophenotyped on paraffin sections, and clinical follow- up from 7 to 20 years was gathered. DNA products were generated using a seminested PCR technique, separated by 5% polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, stained with ethidium bromide, and visualized under UV light. Cases with a 100- to 120-base pair band were scored as positive. Of the 28 small or mixed cell lymphomas, 23 had a B-cell immunophenotype or consisted of a mixture of B and T cells; of these, seven (30%) demonstrated a monoclonal pattern, and three (13%) were indeterminate. Twelve large cell cases were B-cell or mixed; five (42%) of these were positive for a monoclonal band, while four (33%) were indeterminate. None of five T-cell small cell or three T-cell large cell lymphomas demonstrated a monoclonal band. In contrast, 39 of the 40 benign cases were T-cell predominant or mixed lesions. Nevertheless, 18 of these 40 cases on initial testing suggested possible monoclonality. Six were indeterminate, and 12 demonstrated apparent monoclonal bands, of which four were reproducible on repeat testing. No histologic or clinical features of lymphoma were present in 17 of these 18 cases, suggesting that they represent false-positive results. Most of the latter lesions showed sparse perivascular in filtrates, with very few B cells. This suggests that amplification of the immunoglobulin heavy chain gene from a small number of lymphocytes may produce a monoclonal band. In summary, PCR may provide adjunct information about clonality in selected lymphoid skin lesions, but is rather insensitive in this setting. Such data must be carefully considered in the context of the histologic, immunohistologic, and clinical findings, particularly when assessing sparse infiltrates, because of the potential for false-positive results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-68
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of clinical pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1997


  • Cutaneous lymphoid hyperplasia
  • Immunoglobulin gene rearrangements
  • Lymphoma
  • Polymerase chain reaction


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