, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 147-155

Differential staining of neutrophils and monocytes: Surface and cytoplasmic iron-binding proteins

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Lactoferrin, transferrin, and ferritin were systematically visualized and semiquantified in neutrophils and monocytes/macrophages using indirect immunofluorescence and functional cytochemical techniques. They localized on cell surfaces and within the cytoplasm at the light and electron microscopical levels. In normal subjects, subpopulations of blood neutrophils and monocytes had surface lactoferrin, but little surface transferrin or ferritin was observed on these cells. Most neutrophils had brilliant granular cytoplasmic positivity for lactoferrin; variable fractions of monocytes had weak to moderate diffuse cytoplasmic lactoferrin staining localized most prominently to the cytoplasmic matrix. Most neutrophils had cytoplasmic ferritin, but few had cytoplasmic transferrin, whereas larger subpopulations of monocytes had cytoplasmic staining reactions for both proteins. To analyse maturing cells, the iron nitrilotriacetate-acid ferrocyanide method was adapted for the light microscopical analaysis of neutrophils and monocytes/macrophages in soft agar culture. Further, a combined stain that visualizes iron nitrilotriacetate-acid ferrocyanide reactivity and α-naphthyl butyrate esterase activity in cells in blood and marrow smears was developed. The relative quantities and subcellular distribution of iron-binding proteins in neutrophils and monocytes/macrophages defined by the present methods can be correlated with biochemical, maturational, and functional properties of these cells.