Mutations in the perforin gene have been described in some patients with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), but the role of perforin defects in the pathogenesis of HLH remains unclear. Four-color flow cytometric analysis was used to establish normal patterns of perforin expression for control subjects of all ages, and patterns of perforin staining in cytotoxic lymphocytes (natural killer [NK] cells, CD8+ T cells, CD56+ T cells) from patients with HLH and their family members were studied. Eleven unrelated HLH patients and 19 family members were analyzed prospectively. Four of the 7 patients with primary HLH showed lack of intracellular perforin in all cytotoxic cell types. All 4 patients showed mutations in the perforin gene.Their parents, obligate carriers of perforin mutations, had abnormal perforin-staining patterns. Analysis of cytotoxic cells from the other 3 patients with primary HLH and remaining family members had normal percentages of perforin-positive cytotoxic cells. On the other hand, the 4 patients with Epstein-Barr virus associated HLH typically had depressed numbers of NK cells but markedly increased proportions of CD8+ T cells with perforin expression. Four color flow cytometry provides diagnostic information that, in conjunction with evidence of reduced NK function, may speed the identification of life-threatening HLH in some families and direct further genetic studies of the syndrome.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology