Despite being a hallmark of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), HSC self-renewal has never been quantitatively assessed. Establishment of a clonal and quantitative assay for HSC function permitted demonstration that adult mouse HSCs are significantly heterogeneous in degree of multilineage repopulation and that higher repopulating potential reflects higher self-renewal activity. An HSC with high repopulating potential could regenerate approximately 1000 HSCs, whereas the repopulating activity of regenerated HSCs on average was significantly reduced, indicating extensive but limited self-renewal capacity in HSCs. Comparisons of wild-type mice with mutant mice deficient in the signal adaptor molecule Lnk showed that not only HSC numbers but also the self-renewal capacity of some HSCs are markedly increased when Lnk function is lost. Lnk appears to control HSC numbers by negatively regulating HSC self-renewal signaling.