Ultrastructural characterization of human large granular lymphocyte subsets defined by the expression of HNK-1 (Leu-7), Leu-11, or both HNK-1 and Leu-11 antigens

J Histochem Cytochem. 1985 Nov;33(11):1129-33. doi: 10.1177/33.11.3932517.


A peroxidase-colloidal gold double labeling system in immunoelectron microscopy was used to investigate the ultrastructural features of human large granular lymphocytes (LGL) subpopulations. Three subsets of LGL, Leu-7+-Leu-11-, Leu-7+-Leu-11+, Leu-7- -Leu-11+, were characterized using combinations of the monoclonal antibodies anti-Leu-7 and anti-Leu-11. They showed different ultrastructural patterns. In fact, Leu-7+-Leu-11- cells showed a high nuclear/cytoplasmic ratio (N/C), a round nucleus, a cytoplasm with few organelles, and a rather even surface. Moreover, most of them lacked electron-dense granules. On the other hand, Leu-11+ cells displayed a low N/C, an irregular-shaped nucleus, and a cytoplasm containing a well-developed Golgi apparatus, many mitochondria, vacuoles, vesicles, and numerous electron-dense granules. Moreover, they exhibited an irregular cell surface. Thus, Leu-7+-Leu-11- cells seemed to represent an immature form of LGL, while cells expressing the Leu-11 antigen showed a fine structure specific for functional NK cells. Our findings suggest that the expression of HNK-1 (Leu-7) and Leu-11 antigens respectively represents subsequent stages in NK cell differentiation.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology
  • Cell Count
  • Granulocytes / classification*
  • Granulocytes / immunology
  • Granulocytes / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / classification
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Lymphocytes / classification*
  • Middle Aged


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • Antigens, Surface