The constant regeneration of the blood system during hematopoiesis requires tightly controlled lineage decisions of hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs). Because of technical limitations, differentiation of individual HPCs could not previously be analyzed continuously. It was therefore disputed whether cell-extrinsic cytokines can instruct HPC lineage choice or only allow survival of cells that are already lineage-restricted. Here, we used bioimaging approaches that allow the continuous long-term observation of individual differentiating mouse HPCs. We demonstrate that the physiological cytokines, macrophage colony-stimulating factor and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, can instruct hematopoietic lineage choice.
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