Background: The characterization of human monocyte-derived dendritic cells (HM-DC) subsets have been a very difficult and elusive task because of the lack of appropriate reagents. We, therefore utilized several diverse approaches to evaluate two populations of HM-DC including flow cytometry, ultra-structural evaluation by electron microscopy, and functional assays. In addition, we studied the kinetics of the expression of antigens on HM-DC at diverse intervals of time and identify surface markers and functional differences of these two HM-DC subsets.Results: This study identified that a phenotype of HM-DC as defined by CD11c+, CD86+, and CD40+ could be separated in the presence or absence of TGF-beta1 into two different subsets of DC: (i) HM-DC without Birbeck granith (Mo-DC) and (ii) HM-DC with Birbeck granuli (Mo-LC). Furthermore, the functional studies showed that the HM-DC treated with TGF-beta1 (Mo-LC) exhibited the presence of Birbeck granuli and could actively divide. In addition, after undergoing more than four cell divisions, these cells split into at least two additional subsets of Mo-LC: (iia) Mo-LC with high forward scatter (FSC) and (iib) Mo-LC with normal FSC. In contrast, the Mo-DC cultured in absence of TGF-beta1 did not exhibit Birbeck granuli, showed reduced ability to divide, and kept the normal FSC when analyzed.Conclusions: This study enabled us to determine in HNI-DC: (i) the existence of antigenic and functional differences between various subpopulations of Mo-DC and Mo-LC; (ii) the existence of differences in the kinetics of antigens expression among the subsets of Mo-DC and Mo-LC; (iii) the existence of specific markers for each of the subpopulations of HM-DC. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.