Human neutrophil lipocalin (HNL) is a specific granule constituent of the neutrophil granulocyte. Studies in bronchial and lung parenchymal tissue and peripheral blood cells

Histochem Cell Biol. 1997 May;107(5):423-32. doi: 10.1007/s004180050129.


The neutrophilic granulocyte is a cytotoxic and potentially tissue-injuring cell participating in the destructive processes and symptoms seen in a variety of inflammatory diseases. Sensitive immunoassays have been introduced to measure the levels of specific secretory proteins of various inflammatory cells in blood and other body fluids. The aim has been to develop highly specific markers for each cell type. The results obtained by immunoassay have indicated that human neutrophil lipocalin (HNL) is a protein unique to the neutrophil. The present study investigated the specificity of HNL as a neutrophil marker in peripheral blood and lung tissue by using flow cytometry and immunocytochemistry. Flow cytometry and immunocytochemistry on peripheral blood showed that monoclonal antibodies to HNL only react with neutrophils and not with other types of leukocytes. Immunocytochemistry on plastic-embedded sections and on frozen sections of lung tissue showed that a cocktail of six monoclonal antibodies to HNL specifically reacts with neutrophils and not with epithelial cells or macrophages. By immunoelectron microscopical studies performed on healthy human neutrophils after low temperature embedding in Lowicryl K4M following aldehyde fixation and partial dehydration, it could be shown that HNL colocalized with lactoferrin (a known marker for secondary or specific granules) and that myeloperoxidase was localized in the primary or azurophil granules. The results confirm that HNL is a unique component of the secondary granules of the neutrophil granulocyte.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute-Phase Proteins*
  • Bronchi / cytology
  • Bronchi / metabolism*
  • Carrier Proteins / blood
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Frozen Sections
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lactoferrin / metabolism
  • Lipocalin-2
  • Lipocalins
  • Lung / cytology
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Neutrophils / metabolism*
  • Neutrophils / ultrastructure
  • Oncogene Proteins*
  • Plastic Embedding
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins


  • Acute-Phase Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • LCN2 protein, human
  • Lipocalin-2
  • Lipocalins
  • Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Lactoferrin