We have previously shown that when human umbilical cord blood (UCB) cells are cultured in standard Dexter-type long-term cultures (D-LTC), adherent cells develop forming a discrete net on the bottom of the culture flask. The identity of such cells, however, has not been defined. Accordingly, the major goal of the present study was to characterize the adherent cells developed in standard UCB D-LTC. Cultures were established from 14 UCB samples and from nine bone marrow (BM) samples, as controls. Both UCB and BM cultures were initiated with the same number of mononuclear cells (MNC) (2.5 × 106 MNC/ml). After three weeks in culture, adherent cell numbers in UCB D-LTC were 24%-30% of the numbers found in BM cultures. More than 90% of the adherent cells in UCB D-LTC expressed the acid phosphatase enzyme, whereas no alkaline phosphatase-positive cells were observed. This was in contrast to BM D-LTC, in which alkaline and acid phosphatase were expressed by 60%-75% and 20%-45% of the adherent cells, respectively. Immunochemical analysis showed that CD61 (osteoclast marker) and Factor VIII (endothelial cell marker) were not expressed by the adherent cells developed in UCB cultures. Interestingly, the majority of such cells expressed CD1a (dendritic cell marker), CD14, CD68 and CD115 (antigens mainly expressed by macrophagic cells). When the cultures were supplemented with the recombinant cytokines epidermal growth factor, basic fibroblast growth factor, platelet-derived growth factor or granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), only GM-CSF had a significant positive effect on adherent cell number. In order to test for some functional properties of the adherent cells developed in culture, production of stem cell factor (SCF), interleukin 6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) was assessed. IL-6 and TNF-α showed elevated levels in UCB D-LTC, whereas SCF levels were always below detection. Finally, analysis of fibroblast progenitors (fibroblast colony-forming units [CFU-F]) showed that these cells were present in BM samples (6 CFU-F/105 MNC) and were totally absent in UCB samples. Taken together, the results of the present study indicate that the vast majority of the adherent cells developed in standard UCB D-LTC belong to the macrophage lineage and that fibroblasts seem to be absent. Interestingly, the high proportion of CD1a+ cells suggests that dendritic cells are also present in these cultures.