Understanding the pathways and regulation of human haematopoiesis, in particular, lymphopoiesis, is vital to manipulation of these processes for therapeutic purposes. However, although haematopoiesis has been extensively characterised in mice, translation of these findings to human biology remains rudimentary. Here, we describe the isolation of three progenitor subsets from human foetal bone marrow that represent differential stages of commitment to the natural killer (NK) cell lineage based on IL-15 responsiveness. We identify CD7 as a marker of IL-15 responsive progenitors in human bone marrow and find that this expression is maintained throughout commitment and maturation. Within the CD7+
fraction, we focussed on the lineage potential of three subsets based on CD127 and CD117 expression and observed restricted lymphoid and biased NK cell potential amongst subsets. We further demonstrate the presence of subsets similar in both phenotype and function in umbilical cord blood and the bone marrow of humanised mice, validating these as appropriate sources of progenitors for the investigation of human haematopoiesis. Overall, we describe several stages in the process of lymphopoiesis that will form the basis of investigating the regulators of this process in humans.
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