A method is described by which highly enriched populations of viable terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-positive (TdT+) cells can be isolated from rat bone marrow by use of the fluorescence-activated cell sorter. Such cells have been postulated to be progenitors of thymocytes and, possibly, of B lymphocytes, and may serve as the targets of neoplastic transformation in acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The separation procedure is based on differences in relative low-angle light scatter and relative fluorescence intensity for Thy-1 antigen between TdT+ cells and other lymphohemopoietic cell populations in bone marrow. Simultaneous sorting of bone marrow cells according to these two parameters resulted in a mean 87% purification of TdT+ cells. The morphological characteristics of the isolated TdT+ cells are described at the light and electron miscroscopic levels.

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