Chediak-Higashi anomaly is a rare autosomal recessive disorder. It results from a mutation of the gene LYST which encodes a protein with multiple phosphorylation sites. This defect causes a cellular abnormality involving the fusion of cytoplasmic granules.
Early in neutrophil maturation normal azurophilic granules form, but they fuse together to form megagranules. Later during the myelocyte stage, normal specific granules form. The mature neutrophils contain both normal specific granules and abnormal azurophilic granules. These large abnormal granules can be seen in the cytoplasm of neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, monocytes and lymphocytes.
These abnormal granules are able to kill bacteria in neutrophils and monocytes; however, the process is much less effective than in normal cells in part, because these neutrophils have impaired locomotion. For these reasons, individuals with Chediak-Higashi have recurrent infections.
An accelerated lymphoma-like phase occurs, with lymphadenopathy, hepatosplenomegaly, and pancytopenia. Death often occurs at an early age.