In the external layers of human small and large intestine macrophage-like cells were characterized by immunohistochemical, histochemical and electron-microscopical methods. Using immunohistochemistry and a number of monoclonal antibodies, the presence and distribution of phenotypic subpopulations of macrophages were evaluated. In all locations macrophage-like cells were identified with antibody EBM11, which recognizes CD68 antigen, C3bi which recognizes CD11b, and partly with an antibody which recognizes protein 150,95 (CD11c). Macrophage-like cells in the external muscle layer were HLA-DR-positive (expressing the MHC class-II antigen), in contrast to macrophage-like cells in the subserosa and submucosa. Macrophage-like cells in the external muscle layer were mostly acid phosphatase-negative, and at the electron-microscopic level they were found to have features of macrophages: primary lysosomes, coated vesicles and pits. However, very few secondary lysosomes were present. Birbeck granules were not observed. It is concluded that in the external muscle layer of human small and large intestine numerous macrophages of a special type are present. It is discussed whether this cell type plays a role in gastrointestinal motility and/or has an immunological function.