Cellular glucose uptake is mediated by a family of facilitative glucose transporters (GLUT) exhibiting differences in kinetics, substrate specificity, and tissue-specific expression. GLUT isoform expression has not been comprehensively studied in human leukocytes, which participate in immune and inflammatory responses and are critical for host defense. Therefore, we studied the regulated expression of GLUT 1-5 mRNA and protein in isolated human lymphocytes and monocytes and in human THP-1 macrophages and foam cells. Lymphocytes expressed GLUT 1 and GLUT 3 proteins, and cellular levels of both isoforms were augmented 3.5- to 6-fold following activation by phytohemagglutinin (PHA). Monocytes expressed 8.4-fold more GLUT 3 protein and 88% less GLUT 1 than lymphocytes, and activation by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) led to a 1.9-fold increase in GLUT 1. At the level of mRNA expression, GLUT 3 mRNA was the most prevalent GLUT mRNA species in monocytes, while lymphocytes expressed equal numbers of GLUT 1 and GLUT 3 transcripts. Differentiation of THP-1 monocytes into macrophages was associated with marked induction of GLUT 3 and GLUT 5 protein expression, and high levels of GLUT 1, GLUT 3, and GLUT 5 were maintained after transformation to foam cells. GLUT 5 mRNA was expressed in 2-fold greater abundance in macrophages and foam cells than that observed for GLUT 1 mRNA, while the level of GLUT 3 mRNA was intermediate. This facilitative glucose transporters are differentially expressed and regulated in human leukocytes in a pattern that could facilitate cellular functions. Speculatively, high GLUT 1 and GLUT 3 expression could provide cellular fuel for the immune response, and high levels of high-affinity GLUT 3 in macrophages might allow the cell to compete with pathogens for hexoses, even in the presence of low interstitial glucose concentrations. Ample expression of GLUT 1 and GLUT 3 in foam cells could also provide hexose substrates and promote lipid loading. The role for high levels of the fructose transporter GLUT 5 in macrophages and foam cells is unknown since interstitial and circulating fructose concentrations are low in these cells. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.