Pseudo-spikes are common in histologically benign lymphoid tissues

Soo Chin Lee, Karin D. Berg, Frederick K. Racke, Constance A. Griffin, James R. Eshleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


T cell receptor gene rearrangement is a classic marker of T cell clonality and is a useful adjunct in the diagnosis of T cell lymphomas and leukemias. Rearranged V-J gene segments amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are traditionally analyzed by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. We and others have analyzed TCR-γ PCR products using capillary gel electrophoresis, which produces single nucleotide resolution and provides improved diagnostic sensitivity over conventional methods. However, with this marked increase in resolution and sensitivity, it is necessary to re-define normal variation of TCR-γ gene rearrangement in control tissues to allow appropriate interpretation of monoclonality if present. Using DNA capillary gel electrophoresis, we examined the spectrum of normal patterns for TCR-γ in a variety of T-cell-rich, histologically benign tissue types, including spleen, lymph node, tonsil, and blood, and compared this with the patterns in T cell lymphoma samples. We defined relative peak heights as h1/h2, where h1 represents the peak height of the largest peak above the normally distributed population, and h2 represents the peak height of the normally distributed curve. We found spikes in almost 20% of histologically benign samples with relative peak heights that were more than 0.5 and up to 1.5. We designated these as pseudo-spikes, because they may be mistaken for monoclonal spikes. In contrast, the relative peak height of the T cell lymphoma samples that showed clonal rearrangement was much higher than that of the pseudo-spikes, being at least 2 in 11/11 and at least 3 in 10/11 cases. Our data suggest that peaks with relative height of at least 3 represent a true clonal population in diagnostic samples. Peaks with relative heights of less than 1.5 may be insignificant, while peaks with relative heights between 1.5 to 3 may warrant further evaluation. Although capillary gel electrophoresis is superior in assessing T cell clonality, caution must be exercised when interpreting results, because pseudo-spikes appear to be common in benign tissues with lymphoid populations and are not necessarily indicative of clonal malignant T cell population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-152
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Molecular Diagnostics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Medicine


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