Tumor cells of patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) have the cell surface phenotype of mature T-helper lymphocytes, and it may be impossible to differentiate them from nonmalignant lymphocytes in skin and blood. Until now, no specific cell membrane marker of CTCL has been reported. In the current study, it is reported for the first time that CTCL cells express the major histocompatibility complex class I binding p140-killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor, which has been described on a minor subset of natural killer lymphocytes and on a marginal circulating CD8(+) T lymphocyte subset. Interestingly, the molecular characterization of this KIR expressed by CTCL allowed us to isolate a novel allelic form of p140-KIR3DL, resulting in 4 amino acid substitutions, 3 in the extracellular immunoglobulin-like domain of the protein and one in the cytoplasmic region. This finding is likely to be important both for the pathophysiology and for the clinical treatment of patients with CTCL.
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