We have examined the morphology, cytochemistry, and biochemistry of mouse leukocyte subsets by analyzing cloned leukocyte populations specialized to perform different immunologic functions. Cloned cells expressing high-affinity plasma membrane receptors for IgE and mediating natural killer (NK) lysis and cloned antigen-specific suppressor T cells contained prominent osmiophilic cytoplasmic granules similar by ultrastructure to those of mouse basophils. Both clones also incorporated 35SO4 into granule-associated sulfated glycosaminoglycans, expressed a characteristic ultrastructural pattern of nonspecific esterase activity, incorporated exogenous [3H]5-hydroxytryptamine, and contained cytoplasmic deposits of particulate glycogen. By contrast, cloned inducer T cells lacked cytoplasmic granules and glycogen, incorporated neither 35SO4 nor [3H]5-hydroxytryptamine, and differed from the other clones in pattern of nonspecific esterase activity. These findings establish that certain cloned cells with NK activity and cloned suppressor T cells express morphologic and biochemical characteristics heretofore associated with basophilic granulocytes. However, these clones differ in surface glycoprotein expression and immunologic function, and the full extent of the similarities and differences among these populations and basophils remains to be determined.

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