In the present study we used multiparameter flow cytometry and cell sorting to evaluate fetal bone marrow, a rich source of cells early in lymphoid development. We found CD7 to be expressed on a subset of CD19+ cells, including some that had matured to cytoplasmic mu+ (pre-B) and surface mu+ (B) cells. In addition, a less mature CD7+19+ population was characterized as mu- and CD34+/-. The CD7+19+ population was clearly distinct from the mature T cells. The CD7+19+ cells were negative for nuclear TdT in contrast to CD7–19+ cells, which frequently contained TdT. CD10, which is coexpressed on the cell surface of more than 90% of CD19+ lymphocytes, was detected in a minority of CD7+19+ lymphocytes. The CD7+19+34+ cell population may be B-lineage committed, or may represent uncommitted lymphoid precursors. The biologic role of the expression of CD7 on immature and mature cells, including those of the B lineage, may indicate (1) the presence of CD7+19+ lymphoid precursor cells and/or (2) an alternate pathway of B-cell development, in which cells coexpress CD7 with other B-lineage markers.

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