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Immunology. 1992 Oct;77(2):298-303.

Heterogeneity of human blood monocyte: two subpopulations with different sizes, phenotypes and functions.

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Department of Medical Research, Veterans General Hospital-Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China.


Human blood mononuclear cells from normal adults were collected after density-cut centrifugation and monocytes were then isolated by removal of lymphocytes using the techniques of E-rosetting and cell adhesion. The purified monocytes were further analysed by velocity sedimentation, and two distinct subpopulations with different cell sizes were obtained. The larger monocytes were 17.0 +/- 1.8 microns in diameter with a mean sedimentation rate (SR) of 7.0 +/- 0.6 mm/hr, while the smaller monocytes were 9.5 +/- 0.8 microns in size and 4.1 +/- 0.2 mm/hr in SR. The population ratio of larger:smaller cells was approximately 2:1 (66 +/- 2.8%:34 +/- 1.6%). Both cell populations exhibited a high positive rate (> 98%) in both the non-specific esterase and the peroxidase stain. However, the larger cells had much higher phagocytic activity than the smaller ones. Furthermore, the expression of monocyte-associated antigens was also different between these two subpopulations. Thus, while most of the larger monocytes (98%) could be recognized by monoclonal antibodies MY7 and OKM1, only some (35 and 61%, respectively) of the smaller monocytes could react with those antibodies. In addition, the larger monocytes secreted a significant amount of monokines including interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and their production increased in proportion to the level of stimulation by bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), whereas the production of monokines by the smaller monocytes remained at low levels and did not respond to LPS stimulation. These results reveal the existence of phenotypic and functional heterogeneity in human blood monocytes.

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