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Within the last decade, major advances have been made in the analysis of cell-surface marker expression on haemopoietic progenitor cells as a result of the development of multiparameter cell sorting and monoclonal antibody techniques. Although some controversy exists with regard to the actual identification of the stem cell, markers specific for CFU-s and for particular subsets of progenitor cells have not yet been identified. An analysis of cell-surface markers on haemopoietic progenitor cells is complicated by at least three factors. First, it appears that, in mice, the clonal assays do not adequately identify the haemopoietic stem cell. Complete repopulation of all haemopoietic cell compartments in vivo over an extended period of time appears to be the only reliable method for identifying such a cell. Secondly cell-surface marker distribution on haemopoietic progenitors from normal tissues may be indicative of the cycling status of cells. Thus, expression of markers on progenitors from bone marrow or foetal liver which have been perturbed by drugs or viruses may merely reflect a change in their cycling status following drug or viral insult. Thirdly, substantial loss of cells occurs during the purification of particular cell types. For most cell separation procedures, only a minor proportion of the progenitor cells of interest are recovered and these may not be representative of the progenitor population as a whole. During differentiation to mature cells, antigenic determinants present on early progenitor cells may either be progressively lost or amplified. This differential expression of cell-surface molecules has provided a useful tool for the substantial enrichment of haemopoietic subsets, particularly CFU-E and CFU-s. To date, however, most early haemopoietic progenitor cells detected by in vitro CFC assays (day 8 CFC) cannot be completely segregated from one another. The ability to distinguish between such progenitors during the early stages of lineage commitment would provide a more detailed understanding of the relationship between lymphoid precursors, myeloid precursors and stem cells, and would lead to significant advances in developmental biology. Separation of cells at different stages of differentiation within a given lineage would provide an opportunity for studying regulatory mechanisms involved in gene expression in normal cell populations.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Cell Probes

Publication Date





297 - 326


Animals, Antibodies, Monoclonal, Antigens, Surface, Cell Differentiation, Cell Separation, Colony-Forming Units Assay, Erythropoiesis, Hematopoietic Stem Cells, Mice, Rats, Spleen