Four functional subsets of monocytes were identified by tracking myeloid progenitor clonal descendants.
Interconversion between monocyte subsets is infrequent even with in vivo stress.
Myeloid cell heterogeneity is known, but whether it is cell-intrinsic or environmentally-directed remains unclear. Here, an inducible/reversible system pausing myeloid differentiation allowed the definition of clone-specific functions that clustered monocytes into subsets with distinctive molecular features. These subsets were orthogonal to the classical/nonclassical categorization and had inherent, restricted characteristics that did not shift under homeostasis, after irradiation, or with infectious stress. Rather, their functional fate was constrained by chromatin accessibility established at or before the granulocyte-monocyte or monocyte-dendritic progenitor level. Subsets of primary monocytes had differential ability to control distinct infectious agents in vivo. Therefore, monocytes are a heterogeneous population of functionally restricted subtypes defined by the epigenome of their progenitors that are differentially selected by physiologic challenges with limited plasticity to transition from one subset to another.