Abnormalities Of PIG-A Transcripts In Granulocytes From Patients With Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria

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Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is an acquired disorder in which there is a deficiency in the synthesis by hematopoietic cells of the glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol molecules that anchor proteins to the cell membrane. Recently, we demonstrated that a gene termed PIG-A (for phosphatidylinositol glycan class A), a component of glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol biosynthesis, was responsible for PNH in two patients. The present study was undertaken to elucidate whether PIG-A is the gene responsible for all cases of PNH and to characterize further the somatically acquired abnormalities of this gene.


We studied granulocytes from 15 patients with PNH. The cell content of CD55 and CD59 was assessed by fluorescence-activated flow cytometry. PIG-A transcripts were reverse-transcribed, amplified by the polymerase chain reaction, and cloned into plasmids. The structure of the cloned complementary DNA was analyzed by nucleotide sequencing, and its function was assessed on the basis of its ability to restore to normal the abnormal phenotype of a PIG-A-deficient cell line after transfection.


Three patients had size abnormalities of PIG-A transcripts with different patterns, and in one patient a very low level of the PIG-A transcript was found. Eleven patients had transcripts of normal size, but the transfection assay revealed that in each patient some of them were nonfunctional. The percentage of nonfunctional PIG-A transcripts was correlated with the percentage of affected granulocytes (P<0.001). Sequence analysis demonstrated somatic mutations in two of the patients.


PIG-A is the gene responsible for PNH in all patients studied to date. (N Engl J Med 1994;330:249-55.)

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