The CD16 receptor (Fc gamma R-III) is found on many tissue macrophages (M phi s), but its expression on circulating monocytes is restricted to a small, phenotypically distinct subset. The number of these CD16+ monocytes may be markedly increased in response to sepsis, human immunodeficiency virus infection, or metastatic malignancy. We have recently shown that the CD16+ monocyte population is selectively expanded by administration of recombinant human macrophage colony-stimulating factor (rhM-CSF). In the current study, we used the highly rhM-CSF-responsive cynomolgus primate model to further characterize this novel monocyte population. Animals treated with rhM-CSF underwent a progressive and essentially complete conversion to the CD16+ monocyte phenotype, with up to a 50-fold increase in the number of CD16+ cells. This increase was paralleled by the emergence of a population of circulating cells that morphologically resembled large granular lymphocytes (LGLs). However, quantitatively, this population corresponded closely to the number of CD16+ monocytes, and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) confirmed that they were the same. In addition to their LGL-like morphology, many rhM-CSF-induced CD16+ monocytes showed a pattern of size, granularity, and quantitative cell surface marker expression that closely resembled the pretreatment LGL/natural killer (NK) cell population but that did not resemble the pretreatment monocyte population. However, rhM-CSF-induced CD16+ monocytes could be distinguished from LGL/ NK cells by fact that they all expressed cell surface receptors for rhM-CSF, and many of them showed reduced but detectable phagocytic and respiratory burst activity. Studies of human subjects treated with rhM-CSF also showed an analogous population of "LGL-appearing" CD16+ mononuclear cells. Thus, our studies reveal a previously unsuspected ability of cells in the monocyte lineage to adopt a phenotype similar to that of LGL/NK cells. The extent of this phenotypic convergence suggests that the two lineages retain access to elements of a similar developmental pathway.