Commentary: the role of cell migration in the ontogeny of the lymphoid system

Stem Cells Dev. 2004 Feb;13(1):1-21. doi: 10.1089/154732804773099218.


The foundations of experimental hematology were laid by histologists, and while their contributions were enormous, they were limited in their interpretation of very dynamic processes by the static nature of the methodology. The middle of the twentieth century saw the introduction of techniques for hematopoietic cell marking and development of in vitro and in vivo assays for primitive hematopoietic cells, allowing dynamic studies of hematopoiesis. Paralleling this was an understanding of cellular immunology with the discovery of the role of the thymus and the identification of T and B lymphocyte lineages. In the 1960s a series of ontogenetic studies in birds and subsequently in mice revealed that hematopoietic and lymphoid development involved migration streams of primitive cells that colonized developing primary lymphoid organs as well as spleen, marrow, and liver. The yolk sac was proposed as the ultimate origin of these lympho-hematopoietic precursors. Subsequent studies identified a region associated with the dorsal aorta as the primary site of "definitive" stem cells. These opposing views are currently achieving a compromise that recognizes that both sites contribute stem cells involved in seeding the developing tissues. The clear distinction between the local origin of the inducing microenvironment provided by the endoderm or by stroma derived from mesenchymal stem cells of mesodermal origin, and the immigrant origin of the hematopoietic stem cells and progenitors, raises intriguing questions in the current climate of stem cell plasticity, cell fusion, and discovery of stem cells in adult marrow with the capacity to generate hematopoiesis as well as other mesodermal, ectodermal, and endodermal lineages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD34 / metabolism
  • B-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Movement*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Ectoderm / cytology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / physiology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Endoderm / cytology
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Lymphatic System / embryology*
  • Lymphatic System / physiology*
  • Mesoderm / cytology
  • Mice
  • Spleen / embryology
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Thymus Gland / cytology
  • Xenopus
  • Yolk Sac / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD34
  • Ligands