Membrane cofactor protein (MCP, CD46) of the complement system is a measles virus (MV) receptor. Human lymphocytes express a heavily glycosylated (H) and a lightly glycosylated (L) form of MCP, which confers a two-band profile on SDS-PAGE the ratio of which is controlled genetically and organ-specifically. In contrast, granulocytes express a single heavily glycosylated form regardless of lymphocyte MCP phenotype. We investigated susceptibility to MV of granulocytes and lymphocytes from individuals with different lymphocyte MCP phenotypes. In any individual, granulocytes were > 10-fold less susceptible to MV than lymphocytes, and the lymphocytes with predominant H form were generally less susceptible to those with an increasing amount of L form. Thus, lymphocytes always exhibit high susceptibility to MV compared to granulocytes in all individuals. This finding may explain the lymphopenia and immunosuppression observed secondary to MV infection.