Surface immunoglobulins (sIg) were detected on human lymphocytes by immunoelectron microscopy with peroxidase-conjugated antibodies. Blood, marrow, and thymus cells from normal individuals and patients with lymphoproliferative disorders were examined. Samples were fixed before exposure to specific reagents. Normal lymphocyts with detectable sIg, i.e. B lymphocytes, were characterized by a villous surface; nonlabeled blood lymphocytes and thymocytes were smooth cells. Intermediate cells were also found which in sections appeared moderately villous and labeled, thus identified as B lymphocytes. Further evidence for a relationship between villous surface and sIg was given by the finding of a few lymphocytes with polar concentration of labeled microvilli. In chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients, most cells exhibited a villous surface with parallel variations of the number of microvilli and of anti-immunoglobulin-binding capacity. However, some labeled smooth blastic cells were also observed. On the other hand, abnormal lymphocytes from Sézary's syndrome which could exhibit segments of villous membrane had no detectable sIg. This study confirms that in most cases human B lymphocytes have a characteristic surface appearance and that the detection of sIg in normal lymphocytes correlates with the presence of microvilli.

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