A two-color immunofluorescent analysis indicated that dendritic cells (DCs) in the human axillar lymph nodes (ie, lymph nodal DCs (LnDCs)) can be classified into three subsets. The first subset consists of CD1a+/CD86(- or dim)/CD83(- or dim) nondendriform DCs found mainly in lymph sinuses, the second is of CD1a-/CD86+/CD83+ dendriform DCs scattered in normal T zones, and the third is of large CD1a(bright)/CD86+/CD83+ dendriform DCs occasionally found in hyperplastic T zones. A three-color flow cytometric analysis, immunoperoxidase staining, and electron microscopic observation indicated that the majority of LnDCs corresponded to the first subset, which showed distinctive characteristics of DCs but did not fulfill the ultrastructural criteria for interdigitating reticulum cells (IDCs) and did not contain Birbeck granules. When LnDCs were cultured for 7 days, they became large CD1a(dim)/CD86+/CD83+ dendriform cells, which formed large complexes with many T cells and exhibited distinctive ultrastructural features of interdigitating reticulum cells. LnDCs cultured in the presence of granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor became markedly larger CD1a(bright)/CD86+/CD83+ dendriform cells forming large complexes with numerous T cells. These findings suggest that cells of the first subset represent immature LnDCs just migrating from epidermis, those of the second subset represent interdigitating reticulum cells, and those of the third subset represent interdigitating reticulum cells probably stimulated with certain immunostimulatory cytokines such as granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor. It is also suggested that either the second or the third subsets of LnDCs are derived from the first subset.