Chonnam Med J.  1995 Dec;31(2):199-210.

Origin of Birbeck Granules in Neoplastic Langerhans Cells

  • 1Department of Pathology, Chonnam National University Medical School, Kwangju, Korea.
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, Chonnam National University Medical School, Kwangju, Korea.
  • 3Department of Medicine, Chonnam National University Medical School, Kwangju, Korea.
  • 4Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Chonnam National University Medical School, Kwangju, Korea.


Langerhans cell histiocytosis is regarded as an abnormal prolifeerative condition whose stem cells emanate from the Langerhans cell system. A characteristic Langerhans cells have Birbeck granules as a useful organellar cell marker. But the function and origin of Birbeck granules are still debatable. In this study, Langerhans cells in neoplastic proliferation were examined electron microscopically to investigate the origin of Birbeck granules. Ultrastructurally, Birbeck granules were found in neoplastic Langerhans cells, which were diffusely distributed in the cytoplasm. Tennis-racket shaped Birbeck granules had no alignment in terms of their orientation toward the Golgi apparatus. Many Birbeck granules were located at periphery of the cytoplasm. In some granules, limiting membrane of rod structure was continuous to the extermal lamina of cell membrane of cell membrane and was opened to the extracellular space. These results suggest that the formation of Birbeck granules is associated with invagination of plasma membrane, and their function may be related to transport system for signal reception rather than secretory.


Langerhans cell histiocytosis; Birbeck granule; Ultrastructure

MeSH Terms

Cell Membrane
Extracellular Space
Golgi Apparatus
Histiocytosis, Langerhans-Cell
Langerhans Cells*
Stem Cells
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