The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 49: 243 - 250 (2005)

Vol 49, Issue 2-3

Special Issue: The Nogent Institute

Embryonic development of the human hematopoietic system

Published: 30 November -0001

Manuela Tavian*,1 and Bruno Péault1,2

1INSERM U506, Hôpital Paul Brousse, Villejuif, France and 2Department of Pediatrics, Rangos Research Center, Children's Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA, USA


Human hematopoiesis is initiated in the yolk sac during the third week of development. At the same time the capacity to produce blood cells also arises in the embryo, within the splanchnopleura, but this potential is not expressed before day 27, when clustered hematopoietic stem cells emerge from the ventral wall of the aorta and vitelline artery. Budding of hematopoietic cells from vessel walls reflects the re-differentiation of local endothelial cells, which are likely derived from angio-hematopoietic mesodermal ancestors emigrated from the splanchnopleura. Yolk sac-derived stem cells are limited to myelo-erythroid development, whereas those born in the embryo are, in addition, lymphopoietic and therefore represent the first multi-potent, adult-type blood progenitors that appear in human ontogeny, preceding shortly the onset of liver hematopoiesis. These results allowed the establishment of a novel hierarchy of blood-forming tissues in human development and induced an in depth reconsideration of the very origin of definitive human hematopoiesis. These results also fully corroborate the outcome of experiments performed in parallel in avian and mouse embryos and point to the conservation in all higher vertebrates of an ancestral route of blood cell production via embryonic vessel walls.


human embryo, stem cell, hematopoiesis, lymphocyte, endothelium

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