Several studies have previously demonstrated enrichment in primitive progenitor cells in subfractions of CD34+ bone marrow (BM) cells not expressing CD38 or HLA-DR (DR) antigens. However, no studies have directly compared these two cell populations with regard to their content of primitive and more committed progenitor cells. Flow cytometric analysis of immunomagnetic isolated CD34+ cells demonstrated little overlap between CD34+CD38- and CD34+DR- progenitor subpopulations in that only 12% to 14% of total CD34+DR- and CD34+CD38- cells were double negative (CD34+CD38-DR-). Although the number of committed myeloid progenitor cells (colony-forming units granulocyte- macrophage) was reduced in both subpopulations, only CD34+CD38- cells were significantly depleted in committed erythroid progenitor cells (burst-forming units-erythroid). In single-cell assay, CD34+CD38- cells showed consistently poorer response to single as opposed to multiple hematopoietic growth factors as compared with unfractionated CD34+ cells, indicating that the CD34+CD38- subset is relatively enriched in primitive hematopoietic progenitor cells. Furthermore, CD34+CD38- and CD34+DR- cells, respectively, formed 3.2-fold and 1.6-fold more high proliferative potential colony-forming cell (HPP-CFC) colonies than did unfractionated CD34+ cells. Finally, CD34+CD38-DR- cells were depleted in HPP-CFCs as compared with CD34+CD38+DR+ cells. The results of the present study suggest that both the CD38- and DR- subfractions of CD34+ bone marrow cells are enriched in primitive hematopoietic progenitor cells, with the CD34+CD38- subpopulation being more highly enriched than CD34+DR- cells.