Allografts of the liver, which has a comparatively heavy leukocyte content compared with other vascularized organs, are accepted permanently across major histocompatibility complex barriers in many murine strain combinations without immunosuppressive therapy. It has been postulated that this inherent tolerogenicity of the liver may be a consequence of the migration and perpetuation within host lymphoid tissues of potentially tolerogenic donor-derived ("chimeric") leukocytes, in particular, the precursors of chimeric dendritic cells (DC). In this study, we have used granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor to induce the propagation of progenitors that give rise to DC (CD45+, CD11c+, 33D1+, nonlymphoid dendritic cell 145+, major histocompatibility complex class II+, B7-1+) in liquid cultures of murine bone marrow cells. Using this technique, together with immunocytochemical and molecular methods, we show that, in addition to cells expressing female host (C3H) phenotype (H-2Kk+; I-E+; Y chromosome-), a minor population of male donor (B10)-derived cells (H-2Kb+; I-A+; Y chromosome+) can also be grown in 10-d DC cultures from the bone marrow of liver allograft recipients 14 d after transplant. Highly purified nonlymphoid dendritic cell 145+ DC sorted from these bone marrow-derived cell cultures were shown to comprise approximately 1-10% cells of donor origin (Y chromosome+) by polymerase chain reaction analysis. In addition, sorted DC stimulated naive, recipient strain T lymphocytes in primary mixed leukocyte cultures. Evidence was also obtained for the growth of donor-derived cells from the spleen but not the thymus. In contrast, donor cells could not be propagated from the bone marrow or other lymphoid tissues of nonimmunosuppressed C3H mice rejecting cardiac allografts from the same donor strain (B10). These findings provide a basis for the establishment and perpetuation of cell chimerism after organ transplantation.