Lymphocyte numbers and subsets in the human blood. Do they mirror the situation in all organs?

Immunol Lett. 2007 Jan 15;108(1):45-51. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2006.10.009. Epub 2006 Nov 20.


Lymphocyte numbers in the blood are used to evaluate the immune status on a daily basis in medicine. Several studies have documented the normal ranges of lymphocytes and lymphocyte subsets in the peripheral blood. A variety of techniques and criteria have revealed clear differences between the lymphocyte subsets in childhood and adolescence. Race and gender are also variables for blood lymphocytes, and even environmental factors seem to influence the numbers of some lymphocyte populations. However, do all these variations in lymphocyte subsets in the peripheral blood mirror changes in the lymphocyte populations of the whole body, or is it just a result of different migratory habits of cells? The factors influencing the distribution of lymphocytes in the peripheral blood with regard to the different abilities of T and B cells to migrate to distinct lymphoid or non-lymphoid tissue are summarized. In addition it will be described how the removal of organs (e.g. thymus, spleen, liver) influences the distribution of lymphocytes in the blood. All these parameters should be considered not only in the clinical situation when the immune status of a patient is extrapolated from the lymphocyte numbers in the blood, but also when interpreting treatment effects in patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Lymphocyte Subsets*
  • Lymphocytes / blood*
  • Organ Specificity / immunology*