The influence of age, race, and gender on peripheral blood mononuclear-cell subsets in healthy nonsmokers

J Clin Immunol. 1989 May;9(3):214-22. doi: 10.1007/BF00916817.


To investigate the influence of age, race, and gender on the cellular immune system, we determined T-cell, B-cell, monocyte, natural killer (NK)-cell, and HLA-DR+-cell subsets in 266 nonsmokers from a population-based random sample of healthy adults using monoclonal antibodies and flow cytometry. Blacks had a lower total white blood-cell count than whites (P less than or equal to 0.0001), due primarily to a decrease in granulocytes. There was no significant difference in absolute lymphocyte count between blacks and whites. Blacks had a higher proportion of CD19+ cells (Leu 12+ B cells) and a lower proportion of CD3+ cells (OKT3+ T cells) than whites (P less than or equal to 0.01). Female sex and increasing age were independently associated with an increased percentage of CD4+ cells (OKT4A+ helper-inducer T-cell subset), resulting in a higher helper/suppressor ratio among women and older individuals (P less than or equal to 0.05). Black race and increasing age were independently associated with an increased proportion of HLA-DR+ cells (P less than or equal to 0.0001) which was not attributable to B cells or monocytes. No significant age, race, or gender effects were observed for CD14+ cells (Leu M3+ monocytes) or CD16+ cells (Leu 11A+ natural killer cells). These data demonstrate that age, race, and gender are each associated with significant differences in peripheral blood mononuclear-cell subsets. Population-based data such as these provide an important foundation for future design and interpretation of human flow cytometry data.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Surface / analysis*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Blood Cell Count
  • Cell Separation
  • Continental Population Groups
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / classification*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / immunology
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Surface
  • HLA-DR Antigens