Successive T-precursors isolated from adult mouse thymus were examined for their developmental potential, by transfer to irradiated Ly 5-disparate recipients. The earliest, "low CD4" precursors formed T, B, and dendritic cells (DC), but not myeloid cells, in accordance with earlier studies. Surprisingly, the next downstream CD4-8-3 44+25+ precursor population still formed DC as well as T cells although it no longer formed B or myeloid cells. Further down-stream, the CD4-8 3-44-25+ population formed only T cells. The thymic and splenic DC progeny of the early thymic precursors all expressed high levels of CD8 alpha, in contrast with normal splenic DC and the splenic DC progeny of bone marrow stem cells, which consisted of both CD8 and CD8+ DC. A common precursor of T cells and of a subclass of DC is proposed, with CD8 alpha as a marker of the lymphoid-related DC lineage.

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