Lymphocyte subset reference ranges in adult Caucasians

Clin Immunol Immunopathol. 1991 Aug;60(2):190-208. doi: 10.1016/0090-1229(91)90063-g.


We report here the distributions of lymphocyte populations bearing the following antigens: CD3 (T cells), CD19 (B cells), CD4 (T helper/inducer cells), CD8 (T suppressor/cytotoxic and some NK cells), and CD3-, CD16+, and/or CD56+ (NK cells). At four sites, analyses were performed on healthy, normal subjects between the ages of 18 and 70, using identical flow cytometry systems and techniques. Reference ranges (unadjusted for sex differences and age variation) are CD3 (61 to 85%), CD19 (7 to 23%), NK (6 to 29%), CD4 (28 to 58%), and CD8 (19 to 48%). The lymphocyte subpopulation distributions for all antigens were found to be similar at all sites. By combining data from all sites, it has been possible to estimate age variation and sex differences for each of these subpopulations. Age and sex associated differences are substantial for some lymphocyte subsets (CD3, CD4, NK cells), and proper accounting of these effects is essential in evaluating the individual patient, if further disease-related variation is to be accurately and consistently assessed. It appears possible to recommend reference ranges for lymphocyte population parameters applicable across national and laboratory boundaries. These ranges provide a basis for comparing results from different institutions and for combining such results on subjects and patients from several institutions, provided the methodology and equipment are identical at all sites.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • Antigens, CD19
  • Antigens, Differentiation / analysis
  • Antigens, Differentiation, B-Lymphocyte / analysis
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / analysis
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD3 Complex
  • CD4 Antigens / analysis
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD56 Antigen
  • CD8 Antigens
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / analysis
  • Receptors, Fc / analysis
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic
  • Whites


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, CD19
  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Antigens, Differentiation, B-Lymphocyte
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • CD3 Complex
  • CD4 Antigens
  • CD56 Antigen
  • CD8 Antigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Fc
  • Receptors, IgG