Heavy chain disease

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Heavy chain disease
Classification and external resources
Specialty oncology
ICD-10 C88.1-C88.2
ICD-9-CM 273.2
DiseasesDB 442 32226
eMedicine med/958 med/959
MeSH D006362

Heavy chain disease is a form of paraproteinemia and plasma cell dyscrasia that involves the proliferation of cells producing immunoglobulin heavy chains.[1]

This disease is characterized by an excessive production of heavy chains that are short and truncated. These heavy chain disease proteins have various deletions, mainly in their amino-terminal part, which causes the heavy chains to lose the ability to form disulfide bonds with the light chains. The defect in the immunoglobulins presumably arises during somatic hypermutation.[2] Deletion of the N-terminal part of the heavy chain disease protein leads to aggregation and signaling of the B cell receptor,[3] presumably due to the loss of the anti-aggregating properties of the light chain.[4]


There are four forms:

  • alpha chain disease[5] (Seligmann's disease)
  • gamma chain disease[6][7] (Franklin's disease)
  • mu chain disease[8]
  • delta chain disease[9]


The most common type of heavy chain disease is the IgA type, known as αHCD. The most common type of αHCD is the gastrointestinal form (known as immunoproliferative small intestine disease or IPSID), but it has also been reported in the respiratory tract, and other areas of the body.[10]


Franklin's disease (gamma heavy chain disease) It is a very rare B-cell lymphoplasma cell proliferative disorder which may be associated with autoimmune diseases and infection is a common characteristic of the disease.[6] It is characterized by lymphadenopathy, fever, anemia, malaise, hepatosplenomegaly, and weakness. The most distinctive symptom is palatal edema, caused by nodal involvement of Waldeyer's ring. Diagnosis is made by the demonstration of an anomalous serum M component that reacts with anti-IgG but not anti-light chain reagents. Bone marrow examination is usually nondiagnostic. Patients usually have a rapid downhill course and die of infection if left untreated or misdiagnosed.

Patients with Franklin disease usually have a history of progressive weakness, fatigue, intermittent fever, night sweats and weight loss and may present with lymphadenopathy (62%), splenomegaly (52%) or hepatomegaly (37%). The fever is considered secondary to impaired cellular and humoral immunity, and thus recurrent infections are the common clinical presentation in Franklin disease. Weng et al. described the first case of Penicillium sp. infection in a patient with Franklin disease and emphasized the importance of proper preparation for biopsy, complete hematologic investigation, culture preparation and early antifungal coverage to improve the outcome.[6][10]

The γHCD can be divided into three categories based on the various clinical and pathological features. These categories are disseminated lymphoproliferative disease, localized proliferative disease and no apparent proliferative disease.

  • Disseminated lymphoproliferative disease is found in 57-66% of patients diagnosed with γHCD. Lymphadenopathy and constitutional symptoms are the usual features.[11]
  • Localized proliferative disease is found in approximately 25% of γHCD patients. This is characterized by a localization of the mutated heavy chains in extramedullary tissue, or solely in the bone marrow.[10]
  • No apparent proliferative disease is seen in 9-17% of patients with γHCD, and there is almost always an underlying autoimmune disorder.[11]


The IgM type of heavy chain disease, μHCD, is often misdiagnosed as chronic lymphoid leukemia (CLL) because the two diseases are often associated with each other and show similar symptoms.[11]


  1. ^ "Heavy Chain Diseases: Plasma Cell Disorders: Merck Manual Home Edition". Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  2. ^ Goossens T, Klein U, Küppers R (1998). "Frequent occurrence of deletions and duplications during somatic hypermutation: Implications for oncogene translocations and heavy chain disease". PNAS. 95 (5): 2463–8. PMC 19376Freely accessible. PMID 9482908. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.5.2463. 
  3. ^ Corcos D, Dunda O, Butor C, Cesbron JY, Lorès P, Bucchini D, Jami J (1995). "Pre-B-cell development in the absence of lambda 5 in transgenic mice expressing a heavy-chain disease protein". Curr. Biol. 5 (10): 1140–8. PMID 8548286. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(95)00230-2. 
  4. ^ Corcos D, Osborn MJ, Matheson LS, Santos F, Zou X, Smith JA, Morgan G, Hutchings A, Hamon M, Oxley D, Brüggemann M (2010). "Immunoglobulin aggregation leading to Russell body formation is prevented by the antibody light chain". Blood. 115 (2): 282–8. PMID 19822901. doi:10.1182/blood-2009-07-234864. 
  5. ^ Fakhfakh F, Dellagi K, Ayadi H, Bouguerra A, Fourati R, Ben Ayed F, Brouet JC, Tsapis A (1992). "Alpha heavy chain disease alpha mRNA contain nucleotide sequences of unknown origins". Eur. J. Immunol. 22 (11): 3037–40. PMID 1425927. doi:10.1002/eji.1830221141. 
  6. ^ a b c Weng CH, Wang RC, Hsieh TY, Tsai CA, Lin TH (July 2012). "Penicillium pneumonia in a patient with newly diagnosed Franklin disease". Am J Med Sci. 344 (1): 69–71. PMID 22543591. doi:10.1097/MAJ.0b013e31824a8927. 
  7. ^ Wahner-Roedler DL, Witzig TE, Loehrer LL, Kyle RA (2003). "Gamma-heavy chain disease: review of 23 cases". Medicine (Baltimore). 82 (4): 236–50. PMID 12861101. doi:10.1097/01.md.0000085058.63483.7f. 
  8. ^ Wahner-Roedler DL, Kyle RA (1992). "Mu-heavy chain disease: presentation as a benign monoclonal gammopathy". Am. J. Hematol. 40 (1): 56–60. PMID 1566748. doi:10.1002/ajh.2830400112. 
  9. ^ Vilpo JA, Irjala K, Viljanen MK, Klemi P, Kouvonen I, Rönnemaa T (1980). "Delta-Heavy chain disease: A study of a case". Clin Immunol Immunopathol. 17 (4): 584–94. PMID 6777103. doi:10.1016/0090-1229(80)90154-3. 
  10. ^ a b c Wahner-Roedler DL, Kyle RA (2005). "Heavy chain diseases". Best Pract Res Clin Haematol. 18 (4): 729–46. PMID 16026747. doi:10.1016/j.beha.2005.01.029. 
  11. ^ a b c Fermand JP, Brouet JC, Danon F, Seligmann M (1989). "Gamma heavy chain "disease": heterogeneity of the clinicopathologic features. Report of 16 cases and review of the literature". Medicine (Baltimore). 68 (6): 321–35. PMID 2509855. doi:10.1097/00005792-198911000-00001.