Although a minor population of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH)-type blood cells is often detected in patients with aplastic anemia (AA) and refractory anemia (RA), the significance of such cells in the pathophysiology of bone marrow (BM) failure remains obscure. We therefore examined clonality in peripheral blood granulocytes from 118 female patients with AA or myelodysplastic syndrome using the X chromosome inactivation pattern. Clonality, defined as a clonal population accounting for 35% or more of total granulocytes, was confirmed in 22 of 68 (32.4%) AA patients, in 13 of 44 (29.5%) RA patients, in all 4 RA with excess blasts (RAEB) patients, and in 4 patients with PNH. When the frequency of patients with granulocyte clonality was compared with respect to the presence of increased PNH-type cells, the frequency was significantly lower in AA patients with (PNH+; 21.2%) than without (PNH-; 42.9%) increased numbers of PNH-type cells (P = .049). Clonality was absent in granulocytes from the 15 PNH+ RA patients but present in 13 of 29 (44.8%) PNH- RA patients (P = .0013). The absence of clonality in AA and RA patients before treatment was strongly associated with positive response to immunosuppressive therapy (without clonality, 74.4%; with clonality, 33.3%; P = .0031) in all patients as well as in PNH+ patients (without clonality, 96.2%; with clonality, 66.6%, P = .026). These results suggest that AA and RA with a minor population of PNH-type cells are benign types of BM failure with immune pathophysiology that have little relationship to clonal disorders such as RAEB or acute myeloid leukemia.
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