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A reaction for an esterase, with a nonhalogenated, short-chain naphthyl ester (alpha-naphthyl butyrate or alpha-naphthyl acetate) as the substrate, has been used to identify mononuclear phagocytes by light microscopy. By analyzing techniques used in the collection, separation, fixation, processing, and embedding of human blood leukocytes for electron microscopy, we adapted the light microscopic method for use in determining the fine structural localization of this reaction. In monocytes, the reaction product covered the external surface of the plasma membrane. This distribution indicated that monocytic esterase is an ectoenzyme. The addition of NaF completely inhibited the monocytic reaction. In lymphocytes, the reaction product was localized in membrane-bounded intracellular organelles, similar to those previously shown to contain phospholipid and called Gall bodies. These organelles correspond with the punctate densities or focal reaction product observed by light microscopy. Other investigators believe that this distribution of enzyme in lymphocytes marks a subset of T cells, the Tmicro. The lymphocytic reaction was not inhibited by NaF.


M J Bozdech, D F Bainton. Identification of alpha-naphthyl butyrate esterase as a plasma membrane ectoenzyme of monocytes and as a discrete intracellular membrane-bounded organelle in lymphocytes. The Journal of experimental medicine. 1981 Jan 1;153(1):182-95

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PMID: 7452152

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