Microanatomical compartments of the human spleen are yet under evaluation as most of the present information comes from experiments on animals with different anatomical structures. Immune staining of stromal and blood-born cells by cell surface antigens facilitates the differentiation of functional microanatomical compartmentalization of immune organs, including the spleen. Twenty-two specimens from healthy adult subjects with the average age of 35.6 +/- 13.8 (Range 17 to 58) years were included in this study. Monoclonal antibodies used in this study were supplied from the 5(th), 6(th) and 7(th) International Workshops and Conferences on Human Leukocyte Differentiation Antigens. Tetraspan antigens presented a rather unique staining pattern in the human spleen, suggesting special roles for each (CD9, CD53, CD63, CD151 and CD231) in certain locations. Sinus lining cells presented a distinctive antigenic profile, sharing both endothelial cell (CD31, CD36, CD54, CD62P, CD102, CD105, CD106 and CD146) and macrophage lineage characteristics. The sheathed capillaries were not restricted to the perifollicular zone alone. Extracellular matrix receptors (CD49 a, CD49 b, CD49 c, CD49 e, CD49 f, CD29 and CD44) stained the penicillary arterioles and vascular smooth muscle. These molecules were also found on the vascular endothelium. Leukocyte antigens (CD11a, CD11b, CD22, CD43, CD45, CD45RB, CD45RO and CD50) were mainly expressed in the white and red pulp of the spleen at different intensities, excluding the penicillary arterioles. Activation antigens (CD26, CD71 and CD98) presented a diffuse and broad staining pattern. In conclusion, microanatomical compartmentalization, microcirculation and function of the human spleen were evaluated using a wide panel of monoclonal antibodies.