AIMS--To evaluate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of T cell receptor (TCR) beta and gamma chain genes as a means of demonstrating monoclonality in T cell lymphomas using histological samples; to compare the performance of PCR with Southern blot analysis. METHODS--TCR-beta, TCR-gamma and immunoglobulin heavy chain (IGH) genes were analysed using PCR in 55 cases of T cell lymphoma (28 frozen tissue and 27 paraffin wax embedded samples), diagnosed using morphological and immunohistochemical criteria. The 28 frozen samples were subjected to Southern blot analysis using TCR-beta, TCR-gamma and IGH gene probes. Twenty five B cell lymphomas and 21 non-neoplastic lymphoid tissue samples were used as controls. RESULTS--Using TCR-beta PCR, monoclonality was detected in 24 (44%) of 55 T cell lymphomas compared with 43 (78%) of 55 using TCR-gamma PCR and in 82% with both techniques. Five (9%) of 55 T cell lymphomas were IGH PCR positive. None of the non-neoplastic lymphoid control samples were PCR positive. All B cell lymphomas showed a polyclonal pattern with TCR-beta PCR while a single B cell lymphoma was positive using TCR-gamma primers. With TCR-beta PCR, a monoclonal result was seen in 12 (43%) of 28 frozen samples of T cell lymphoma, compared with 23 (82%) of 28 using Southern blot analysis. With TCR-gamma PCR, 19 (68%) of 28 frozen tissue samples were positive, compared with 26 (93%) of 28 using Southern blot analysis. A single case showed IGH rearrangement by Southern blot analysis. CONCLUSION--TCR-gamma PCR should be the method of choice for analysis of clonality in paraffin wax embedded sections of lymphoproliferative lesions, as TCR-beta PCR has a high false negative rate. Southern blot analysis remains the most successful technique when sufficient fresh tissue samples and resources are available.
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