Human neutrophil granules and secretory vesicles

N Borregaard, K Lollike, L Kjeldsen, H Sengeløv, L Bastholm, M H Nielsen, D F Bainton


The traditional classification of neutrophil granules as peroxidase-positive (azurophil, or primary) and peroxidase-negative (specific or secondary) has proven to be too simple to explain the differential exocytosis of granule proteins and incorporation of granule membrane into the plasma membrane which is an important aspect of neutrophil activation. Combined subcellular fractionation and immunoelectron microscopy has revealed heterogeneity among both peroxidase-positive and peroxidase-negative granules with regard to their content, mobilization and time of formation. Peroxidase-negative granules may be classified according to their content of lactoferrin and gelatinase: 15% of peroxidase-negative granules contain lactoferrin, but no gelatinase. 60% contain both lactoferrin and gelatinase. The term specific or secondary granule should be reserved for these two subsets. In addition, 25% of peroxidase-negative granules contain gelatinase but no lactoferrin. These should be termed gelatinase granules or tertiary granules. Gelatinase granules are formed later than specific granules and mobilized more readily. In addition, a distinct, highly mobilizable intracellular compartment, the secretory vesicle, has now been recognized as an important store of surface membrane-bound receptors. This compartment is formed in band cells and segmented cells by endocytosis. This heterogeneity among the neutrophil granules is of functional significance, and may also be reflected in the dysmaturation which is an important feature of myeloproliferative and myelodysplastic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Haematology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)187-98
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Calcium/blood
  • Cytoplasmic Granules/enzymology
  • Gelatinases/blood
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells/cytology
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neutrophils/enzymology


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