We have examined natural killer (NK) cells, B cells and myelomonocytic cells at different stages of differentiation for the expression of surface C3b receptors (C3bR). Receptor presence was detected using affinity-purified F(ab')2 anti-C3bR antibodies in indirect immunofluorescence assays. NK cells, identified in fetal and adult tissues by the monoclonal antibody HNK-1, were C3bR- except for infrequent C3bR+ HNK-1+ cells in some blood samples. NK cells were not induced to express C3bR by exposure to interferon, target cells, or phorbol myristate acetate. B cells gradually acquired the ability to express C3bR with maturity: 15% of large pre-B cells were C3bR+, 35 to 48% of small pre-B, 60 to 80% of immature B, and 99% of mature B cells. Mature plasma cells were rarely C3bR+. Myelomonocytic cells acquire C3bR relatively late during their development, with neutrophils beginning to express C3bR during the band stage of differentiation. All adult blood myelomonocytic lineage cells, identified by the monoclonal antibody MMA and by morphology, were C3bR+.

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