During the last decade, the function/s of the cell membrane CD7 antigen have been investigated in human mature T and NK cells, showing the direct involvement of this molecule in multiple effector functions related with activation, proliferation, production of cytokines and modification of adhesion properties. The CD7 glycoprotein is not only expressed by mature lymphoid cells, but also by early hematopoietic progenitors and several types of leukemias, suggesting a role of CD7 during hematopoiesis. However, the function of CD7 in the early stages of hematopoietic development has not yet been elucidated. CD7 has been classically considered the earliest T-cell specific marker. This assumption was based on data indicating the presence of CD45(+)CD7(+)CD3(-)CD4(-)CD8(-) cells in the human embryonic/fetal liver at the gestational age at which the thymic rudiment is colonized by T-cell progenitors. In the present article, we review recent results obtained by several groups concerning the expression of CD7 and various other cell surface antigens by T-, B- and myeloid-cell progenitors generated in the adult bone marrow and fetal liver. In addition, we present an hypothetical model of hematopoiesis in the fetal liver and thymus.
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