To determine the kinetics of tissue macrophage and microglial engraftment after bone marrow (BM) transplantation, we have developed a model using the ROSA 26 mouse. Transplanted ROSA 26 cells can be precisely identified in recipient animals because they constitutively express beta-galactosidase (beta-gal) and neomycin resistance. B6/129 F2 mice were irradiated and transplanted with BM from ROSA 26 donors and their tissues (spleen, marrow, brain, liver, and lung) examined at various time points to determine the kinetics of engraftment. Frozen sections from transplanted animals were stained histochemically for beta-gal to identify donor cells. At 1, 2, 6, and 12 months posttransplantation, 98% to 100% of granulocyte-macrophage colonies were of donor (ROSA 26) origin determined by beta-gal staining and by neomycin resistance. Splenic monocytes/macrophages were 89% donor origin by 1 month confirming quick and complete engraftment of hematopoietic tissues. At this time, only rare ROSA 26 tissue macrophages or microglia were observed. Alveolar macrophage engraftment was evident by 2 months and had increased to 61% of total tissue macrophages at 1 year posttransplantation. The kinetics of liver Kupffer cell engraftment were similar to those seen in the lung. However, donor microglial engraftment remained only 23% of total microglia at 6 months and increased to only 30% by 1 year. Also, donor microglia were predominantly seen at perivascular and leptomeningeal, and not parenchymal, sites. The data show that microglia derive from BM precursors but turn over at a significantly slower rate than other tissue macrophages. No clinical or histological graft-versus-host disease was observed in the recipients of ROSA 26 BM. These kinetics may impact strategies for the gene therapy of lysosomal storage diseases. Because individual donor cells can be identified in situ, the ROSA 26 model should have many applications in transplantation biology including studies of homing and differentiation.