Lineage specification of human dendritic cells is marked by IRF8 expression in hematopoietic stem cells and multipotent progenitors

Nat Immunol. 2017 Aug;18(8):877-888. doi: 10.1038/ni.3789. Epub 2017 Jun 26.


The origin and specification of human dendritic cells (DCs) have not been investigated at the clonal level. Through the use of clonal assays, combined with statistical computation, to quantify the yield of granulocytes, monocytes, lymphocytes and three subsets of DCs from single human CD34+ progenitor cells, we found that specification to the DC lineage occurred in parallel with specification of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) to the myeloid and lymphoid lineages. This started as a lineage bias defined by specific transcriptional programs that correlated with the combinatorial 'dose' of the transcription factors IRF8 and PU.1, which was transmitted to most progeny cells and was reinforced by upregulation of IRF8 expression driven by the hematopoietic cytokine FLT3L during cell division. We propose a model in which specification to the DC lineage is driven by parallel and inheritable transcriptional programs in HSCs and is reinforced over cell division by recursive interactions between transcriptional programs and extrinsic signals.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage*
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology*
  • Fetal Blood
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors / genetics
  • Interferon Regulatory Factors / metabolism*
  • Leukopoiesis*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • Interferon Regulatory Factors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • interferon regulatory factor-8
  • proto-oncogene protein Spi-1