Phenotypic analysis of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells has been an invaluable tool in defining the biology of stem cell populations. We use here flow cytometry to examine the expression of human erythroid-specific surface markers during the maturation of early committed erythroid cells derived from cord blood in vitro. The temporal order of the expression of erythroid specific markers was as follows: Kell glycoprotein (gp), Rh gp, Landsteiner Wiener (LW) gp, glycophorin A (GPA), Band 3, Lutheran (Lu) gp, and Duffy (Fy) gp. The time at which some of these markers appeared suggests possible roles for some of these erythroid-specific polypeptides during the differentiation of these committed progenitors. The early appearance of Kell gp raises the possibility that it may have an important role in the early stages of hematopoiesis or cell lineage determination. Kell gp may also be a useful marker for the diagnosis of erythroleukemia. The late expression of Lu gp suggests it may be involved in the migration of erythroid precursors from the marrow. Fy gp is also expressed late consistent with a role as a scavenger receptor for cytokines in the bone marrow and circulation. Rh c antigen appeared before Rh D antigen, and it is suggested that this may reflect a reorganization of the developing erythroid cell membrane involving the Rh polypeptides and other components, including GPA and Band 3.