Follicular helper T cell (TFH) markers are expressed in angioimmunoblastic T-cell lymphoma (AITL) and peripheral T-cell lymphoma of the TFH phenotype (PTCL-TFH). However, differential expression and coexpression of these markers in benign and other malignant lymphoid proliferations have not been well studied.
We performed programmed death-1 (PD-1), C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 13 (CXCL13), inducible costimulator (ICOS), CD10, and B-cell lymphoma 6 protein (BCL-6) immunohistochemistry on AITL, PTCL not otherwise specified (PTCL-NOS), PTCL-TFH, T-cell or histiocyte-rich large B-cell lymphoma (THRLBCL), classic Hodgkin lymphoma (CHL), atypical paracortical hyperplasia (PCH), progressive transformation of germinal centers (PTGC), and reactive follicular hyperplasia (RFH).
CXCL13 and ICOS were more sensitive but less specific for AITL than PD-1, CD10, and BCL-6. Moreover, 74% of AITL (none of PTCL-NOS or PTCL-TFH) coexpressed more than 2 TFH markers. In background T cells of THRLBCL, 70% of cases coexpressed more than 1 marker. The background T cells of CHL expressed all TFH markers except CD10 in all cases. In addition, 13% of PCH cases coexpressed more than 1 marker. In RFH and PTGC, all markers were expressed mainly in germinal centers with rare extrafollicular staining.
AITL, PTCL-NOS, and PTCL-TFH show differential expression of TFH markers. AITL frequently coexpresses more than 2 TFH markers. TFH markers can be expressed in PCH and in background T cells of THRLBCL and CHL. Consequently, caution should be used before a diagnosis of AITL is established, particularly with limited samples.

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