A detailed immunologic study of three cases of sinus histiocytosis with massive lymphadenopathy (SHML) was performed to better characterize this rare disorder. One patient had prominent cervical lymphadenopathy that regressed spontaneously, whereas the other two patients had persistent cervical lymphadenopathy and recurrent infections. The first patient was otherwise healthy and had normal immunologic studies. One of the latter patients had a relative increase in blood B cells, a decreased level of serum immunoglobulin A (IgA), decreased blood lymphocyte mitogenic responses to multiple mitogens (37-42% of controls), and cutaneous anergy. The other patient with persistent disease also had a relative increase in blood B cells, polyclonal hypergammaglobulinemia, and circulating immune complexes, as well as decreased blood T cells and markedly decreased blood lymphocyte responses to mitogens (12-37% of controls). Immunohistochemical stains of the lymph nodes of the three patients revealed a characteristic phenotype for the sinus histiocytes: S-100 protein, 3/3; CD14 (Leu M3) 3/3; CD11c (Leu M5), 1/1; CD71 (OKT9), 3/3; CD4 (Leu 3a), 2/3; CD1a (OKT6), 1/3; alpha-1-antitrypsin, 3/3; alpha-1-antichymotrypsin, 3/3; CD35 (C3b), 1/1; CD11b (Mo1), 0/3; CD15 (Leu M1), 0/3; HLA-DR, 0/3; and lysozyme, 0/3. This phenotype suggests that the cells of SHML have features of both the Langerhans/interdigitating cell and mononuclear phagocyte lineages. Emperipolesis by the histiocytes of B cells, T cells, and natural killer cells was demonstrated by a double-staining technique. Our findings indicate that patients with SHML may have a variably expressed immunodeficiency that predisposes them to recurrent infections.