Hematopoietic differentiation of human embryonic stem cells progresses through sequential hematoendothelial, primitive, and definitive stages resembling human yolk sac development

Blood. 2005 Aug 1;106(3):860-70. doi: 10.1182/blood-2004-11-4522. Epub 2005 Apr 14.


We elucidate the cellular and molecular kinetics of the stepwise differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) to primitive and definitive erythromyelopoiesis from human embryoid bodies (hEBs) in serum-free clonogenic assays. Hematopoiesis initiates from CD45 hEB cells with emergence of semiadherent mesodermal-hematoendothelial (MHE) colonies that can generate endothelium and form organized, yolk sac-like structures that secondarily generate multipotent primitive hematopoietic stem progenitor cells (HSPCs), erythroblasts, and CD13+CD45+ macrophages. A first wave of hematopoiesis follows MHE colony emergence and is predominated by primitive erythropoiesis characterized by a brilliant red hemoglobinization, CD71/CD325a (glycophorin A) expression, and exclusively embryonic/fetal hemoglobin expression. A second wave of definitive-type erythroid burst-forming units (BFU-e's), erythroid colony-forming units (CFU-e's), granulocyte-macrophage colony-forming cells (GM-CFCs), and multilineage CFCs follows next from hEB progenitors. These stages of hematopoiesis proceed spontaneously from hEB-derived cells without requirement for supplemental growth factors during hEB differentiation. Gene expression analysis of differentiating hEBs revealed that initiation of hematopoiesis correlated with increased levels of SCL/TAL1, GATA1, GATA2, CD34, CD31, and the homeobox gene-regulating factor CDX4 These data indicate that hematopoietic differentiation of hESCs models the earliest events of embryonic and definitive hematopoiesis in a manner resembling human yolk sac development, thus providing a valuable tool for dissecting the earliest events in human HSPC genesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Endothelium / cytology*
  • Endothelium / embryology
  • Erythropoiesis
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Hematopoiesis*
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens
  • Myelopoiesis
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Yolk Sac / growth & development


  • Antigens, CD
  • Transcription Factors
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens