The importance of flow cytometry in the diagnosis and monitoring of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria

Lethicia R. Ehlert Camila L. Silva Allyne Cristina Grando About the authors



The paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is an acquired clonal disease of the hematopoietic stem cells, and it is clinically characterized by chronic intravascular hemolysis, bone marrow failure and hypercoagulability leading to thrombosis. It is a rare disorder of the hematopoietic stem cells that occurs due to a somatic mutation in the gene phosphatidylinositol glycan class A (PIG-A).


Here we reviewed the importance of screening and monitoring of individuals with high risk of developing PNH, since the early diagnosis of the disease is essential for better prognostic and treatment choice for the patient. Method: A review was carried out with great focus on the pathophysiology and diagnosis of PNH, mainly with the use of flow cytometry technique to detect the disease.


This gene codifies an enzyme essential to the formation of glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI), which acts as a molecular anchor for many membrane proteins. The alteration of GPI synthesis promotes a partial or complete loss of proteins that needs this molecular anchor to bind to the cell surface. Among these proteins are the CD55 and the CD59, which control the activation of the complement cascade.


The immunophenotyping exam with flow cytometry is considered the reference test for PNH diagnosis, since the technique is highly sensitive and specific, presenting advantages as the quantitative identification of small populations of cells with PNH phenotype and the capacity to distinguish cells with partial or total deficiency of GPI-anchored proteins.

Key words:
hemoglobinuria paroxysmal; flow cytometry; immunophenotyping

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