We have tested the usefulness of several commercial anti-CD33 monoclonal antibodies (mAb) to determine the expression and localization of the two CD33 isoforms on several hematopoietic cell lines. The expression of the isoform CD33m, a CD33 transmembrane splice variant lacking the ligand-binding V immunoglobulin (Ig)-like domain, was detected by RT-polymerase chain reaction, western blot, confocal microscopy and flow cytometry on the membrane of several human cell types. CD33m was only detected by the anti-CD33 mAb HIM3-4 on the cell surface, whereas WM53, P67.6, 4D3, HIM3-4, WM54, D3HL60.251 or MY9 detected the CD33M isoform, indicating that HIM3-4 is the only mAb recognizing CD33 C(2) Ig domain. Accordingly, HIM3-4 binding to CD33 did not interfere with the binding of other antibodies against the CD33 V-domain. P67.6 mAb interfered with recognition by the rest of antibodies specific for the V domain. HIM3-4 staining could be increased after the sialidase treatment of all CD33(+) cells. However, this increase was stronger in activated T cells, suggesting a CD33 masking state in this cell population. Confocal microscopy analysis of CD33m HEK 293T-transfected cells revealed that this protein is expressed on the cell membrane and also detected in the Golgi compartment. CD33 is constitutively located outside the lipid raft domains, whereas cross-linked CD33 is highly recruited to this signaling platform. The unique ability of HIM3-4 mAb to detect the masking state of CD33 on different cell lineages makes it a good tool to improve the knowledge of the biological role of this sialic acid-binding Ig-like lectin.