Common lymphoid progenitors (CLPs) are thought to represent major intermediates in the transition of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) to B lineage lymphocytes. However, it has been obvious for some time that CLPs are heterogeneous, and there has been controversy concerning their differentiation potential. We have now resolved four Flt3+ CLP subsets that are relatively homogenous and capable of forming B cells. Differentiation potential and gene expression patterns suggest Flt3+ CLPs lacking both Ly6D and RAG-1 are the least differentiated. In addition to B cells, they generate natural killer (NK) and dendritic cells (DCs). At the other extreme is a subset of the recently described Flt3+ Ly6D+ CLPs that have a history of RAG-1 expression and are B lineage restricted. These relatively abundant and potent CLPs were depleted within 48 hours of acute in vivo estrogen elevation, suggesting they descend from hormone regulated progenitors. This contrasts with the hormone insensitivity of other CLP subsets that include NK lineage progenitors. This progenitor heterogeneity and differentiation complexity may add flexibility in response to environmental changes. Expression of RAG-1 and display of Ly6D are both milestone events, but they are neither synchronized nor dependent on each other.
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