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Granulocytes vs. Agranulocytes: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 3, 2023
Granulocytes contain granules in their cytoplasm and have lobed nuclei, while agranulocytes lack visible granules and have round nuclei.

Key Differences

Granulocytes, a category of white blood cells, are distinguishable by the presence of granules within their cytoplasm, which hold enzymes crucial for breaking down microorganisms. On the contrary, agranulocytes, another white blood cell type, do not possess these conspicuous granules. Granulocytes utilize their granules to digest microbial invaders, while agranulocytes generally do not deploy granules for such purposes.
In terms of nuclear shape, granulocytes are typically characterized by lobed nuclei, which can be a bifold, trifid, or even multifid structure. Agranulocytes, in contrast, usually exhibit a non-lobed, rounded nuclear shape. This nuclear distinction is a fundamental microscopic feature that enables researchers and medical professionals to differentiate between these two cell types.
Granulocytes can be further subcategorized into neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils, each serving distinct immunological functions. Agranulocytes, meanwhile, encompass lymphocytes and monocytes, which also fulfill varied roles in immune response. The diversification within each category illustrates the complex and multi-faceted nature of the body's defensive mechanisms.
In a practical immunological context, granulocytes often act as the body’s first responders to infection, immediately attacking and digesting pathogens. Agranulocytes, while also playing a crucial role in immunity, involve more specialized functions, like antibody production or transformation into macrophages for pathogen destruction.
During certain medical conditions or treatments, the counts of granulocytes and agranulocytes can be profoundly affected. For instance, chemotherapy might suppress the production of granulocytes, elevating the risk of infection, while specific immune responses might increase or decrease agranulocyte levels, reflecting the body’s intricate and dynamic adaptation to pathological states.

Comparison Chart

Cytoplasmic Granules


Nucleus Shape



Neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils
Lymphocytes, monocytes

Primary Function

Immediate response, engulfing pathogens
Antibody production, maturing into macrophages

Presence in Blood

Typically more prevalent
Less prevalent compared to granulocytes

Granulocytes and Agranulocytes Definitions


Cells with lobed nuclei.
Under a microscope, the lobed nuclei differentiate granulocytes from other cells.


White blood cells without cytoplasmic granules.
Agranulocytes include lymphocytes and monocytes.


Subdivided into neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils.
Neutrophils are the most abundant granulocytes in the blood.


Crucial for adaptive immunity.
Agranulocytes like lymphocytes help in producing antibodies.


Known for their antimicrobial activity.
Granulocytes can engulf and digest bacterial invaders.


Have a rounded, non-lobed nucleus.
The smooth, round nucleus is a key identifier of agranulocytes.


White blood cells with cytoplasmic granules.
Granulocytes are essential for a quick immune response.


Can transform into macrophages.
Some agranulocytes change into macrophages to engulf pathogens.


Generally, the first responders during an infection.
Upon infection, granulocytes rapidly move toward the affected site.


Involved in specialized immune responses.
T-cell agranulocytes are vital for cell-mediated immunity.


Any of a group of white blood cells having granules in the cytoplasm. Neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils are granulocytes.


Plural of agranulocyte


Plural of granulocyte


What is the main visual difference between granulocytes and agranulocytes?

Granulocytes have visible granules and lobed nuclei, while agranulocytes lack granules and have round nuclei.

What are the subtypes of granulocytes?

Granulocytes are subtyped into neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils.

Can granulocytes and agranulocytes be distinguished under a microscope?

Yes, their differences in nuclear shape and the presence or absence of granules facilitate microscopic identification.

Can agranulocytes become other cell types?

Yes, monocytes, a type of agranulocyte, can differentiate into macrophages.

How important are granulocytes in daily immune function?

Extremely; granulocytes provide frontline defense against daily microbial challenges.

How might a disease impact agranulocyte counts?

Diseases can either elevate agranulocyte counts due to immune activation or deplete them, as seen in some immunodeficiencies.

Do agranulocytes directly attack pathogens like granulocytes?

Not typically; agranulocytes often perform specialized functions like antibody production or become macrophages.

Can agranulocytes and granulocytes cooperate in immune responses?

Yes, they often work in tandem, with each playing specialized roles to effectively counter pathogens.

What is the primary function of basophils, a granulocyte subtype?

Basophils release histamine during inflammatory responses and are involved in allergic reactions.

Are granulocytes and agranulocytes forms of white blood cells?

Yes, both are white blood cells but have different structures and functions in the immune response.

How does the nucleus of agranulocytes appear microscopically?

Agranulocytes typically have a smooth, rounded nucleus without lobes.

How fast do granulocytes respond to infections?

Granulocytes respond rapidly, often being the first cells to reach and combat infections.

Which granulocyte is involved in allergic reactions?

Eosinophils, a subtype of granulocytes, are significantly involved in allergic reactions.

Why might a doctor monitor agranulocyte levels?

To assess immune system status, particularly in contexts like infection or immunodeficiency.

What roles do agranulocytes play in immunity?

Agranulocytes, like lymphocytes, aid in antibody production and can mature into macrophages.

Why are granulocytes crucial during infections?

Granulocytes act as first responders, rapidly attacking and digesting pathogens.

Which granulocyte is most abundant in human blood?

Neutrophils are the most abundant granulocytes in human blood.

How does chemotherapy affect granulocyte levels?

Chemotherapy can suppress granulocyte production, heightening infection risk.

Which cells are responsible for antibody production?

B-cell agranulocytes are key players in antibody production.

Can the counts of granulocytes and agranulocytes indicate health conditions?

Yes, varying levels of these cells can indicate infections, diseases, or impacts from treatments like chemotherapy.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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