• Avian embryo;
  • mouse embryo;
  • hematopoiesis;
  • hemogenic endothelium;
  • hemangioblasts;
  • aorta;
  • allantois;
  • somite

The developmental origin of hematopoietic stem cells has been for decades the subject of great interest. Once thought to emerge from the yolk sac, hematopoietic stem cells have now been shown to originate from the embryonic aorta. Increasing evidence suggests that hematopoietic stem cells are produced from an endothelial intermediate designated by the authors as hemangioblast or hemogenic endothelium. Recently, the allantois in the avian embryo and the placenta in the mouse embryo were shown to be a site of hematopoietic cell production/expansion and thus appear to play a critical role in the formation of the hematopoietic system. In this review we shall give an overview of the data obtained from human, mouse and avian models on the cellular origins of the hematopoietic system and discuss some aspects of the molecular mechanisms controlling hematopoietic cell production.