Cultivation of human peripheral blood monocytes with granulocyte/macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and IL-4 facilitates generation of strongly antigen-presenting dendritic cells (DC). These monocyte-derived DC (mdDC) were used here to further delineate differentiation pathways in the myeloid lineage. Incubation of mdDC with TNF or soluble CD40L led to enhanced MHC and accessory surface antigen expression with significantly elevated T cell stimulatory activity, indicative of DC maturation. In contrast, after cytokine withdrawal or incubation with M-CSF, mdDC differentiated to macrophages. Cells became adherent, monocyte/macrophage surface markers were upregulated, and MHC and accessory surface proteins were downregulated. Furthermore, the multilaminar MHC class II compartments (MIIC) were lost and the T cell stimulating capacity largely diminished. Thus, mdDC show a high developmental plasticity by retaining their ability to become macrophages or to continue their differentiation towards mature DC.