Human hematopoietic stem cells are pluripotent, ie, capable of producing both lymphoid and myeloid progeny, and are therefore used for transplantation and gene therapy. An in vitro culture system was developed to study the multi-lineage developmental potential of a candidate human hematopoietic stem cell population, CD34+CD38- cells. CD34+CD38- cells cocultivated on the murine stromal line S17 generated predominantly CD19(+) B-cell progenitors. Transfer of cells from S17 stroma to myeloid-specific conditions ("switch culture") showed that a fraction of the immunophenotypically uncommitted CD19- cells generated on S17 stroma had myeloid potential (defined by expression of CD33 and generation of colony-forming unit-cells). Using the switch culture system, single CD34+CD38- cells were assessed for their lymphoid and myeloid potential. Nineteen of 50 (38%) clones generated from single CD34+CD38- cells possessed both B-lymphoid and myeloid potential. 94.7% of the CD34+CD38- cells with lympho-myeloid potential were late-proliferating (clonal appearance after 30 days), demonstrating that pluripotentiality is detected significantly more often in quiescent progenitors than in cytokine-responsive cells (P = .00002). The S17/switch culture system permits the in vitro assessment of the pluripotentiality of single human hematopoietic cells.