We have identified a rare (0.05-0.1%) subset of human fetal bone marrow cells that contains multipotent hematopoietic precursors. The population of human precursor cells that express Thy-1 and CD34 but no known lineage markers is enriched for clonogenic activity that establishes long-term, multilineage (myelomonocytic and B lymphoid) cultures on mouse marrow stromal lines. Further, the Thy-1+CD34+ subset that takes up little of the fluorescent mitochondrial dye rhodamine 123 contains virtually all the cells that establish long-term cultures. In human fetal thymus transplanted into SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency) mice, Thy-1+CD34+ fetal bone marrow cells differentiate into T lymphocytes. In two of nine cases, allogeneic Thy-1+CD34+ cells could engraft intact human fetal bone marrow grown in SCID mice, resulting in donor-derived myeloid and B cells. By extrapolation, the rare human Thy-1+Lin-CD34+ cell population contains pluripotent hematopoietic progenitors; we propose that it is highly enriched for candidate hematopoietic stem cells.