The Leu-2 antigen is expressed on a subpopulation of human T cells that perform suppressor and cytotoxic functions. In addition, this antigen is also present on a portion of cells with morphologic characteristics of granular lymphocytes. Although both Leu-2+ cells and granular lymphocytes have been shown to suppress B cell differentiation, the interrelationship of these two suppressor populations has not previously been fully characterized. We recently produced a monoclonal antibody, termed D12 (anti-Leu-15), which reacts with a variety of cell types, including a subpopulation of Leu-2+ cells. Previous studies have indicated that the Leu-2+ cells that suppress T cell proliferative responses express the Leu-2+15+ phenotype, whereas the precursor and effector cytotoxic T cells that recognize class I major histocompatibility antigens are Leu-2+15- lymphocytes. For this report, we used the anti-Leu-2 and anti-Leu-15 monoclonal antibodies and fluorescence-activated cell sorter techniques to characterize the E+ cells that suppress PWM-induced B cell differentiation. These studies indicate that the vast majority of Leu-2+ cells that suppress this T cell-dependent B cell response have the Leu-2+15+ phenotype. Furthermore, when the morphologic and cytochemical characteristics of these Leu-2+15+ cells were studied, virtually all of these cells were granular lymphocytes. Most of the Leu-2+15+ suppressor cells co-expressed the HNK-1 (Leu-7) antigen, which is detected only on granular lymphocytes. In contrast, virtually none of the Leu-2+15+ granular lymphocytes expressed Fc receptors for IgG molecules. These data indicate that the Leu-2+ cells that suppress PWM-induced B cell differentiation are Leu-2+15+ (and predominantly Leu-7+) granular lymphocytes that do not express Fc receptors. The implications of these observations concerning the relationship of human Leu-2+ suppressor cells to murine Ly-2+ cells and the lineage of granular lymphocytes are discussed.