It is well established by in vivo and in vitro studies that dendritic cells (DCs) originate from hematopoietic progenitor cells. However, the presumed intermediate of Birbeck granule (BG)+ Langerhans cells (LCs) has not been detected in cultures derived from bone marrow or peripheral blood progenitor cells (PBPCs), thus contrasting with the data obtained with cord blood. We show here that large numbers of BG+ LCs can be generated from human CD34+ PBPCs in vitro, when granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and interleukin-4, potent promotors of LC/DC differentiation, are combined with a cocktail of early acting hematopoietic growth factors. LCs were found to emerge from CD33+CD11b+CD14-progenitor cells that they share with the monocytic lineage. During culture, these cells exhibited a sequence of dramatic morphologic changes, starting with a major increase in granularity followed by an increase in size herein exceeding that of all peripheral blood cells. At the same time, CD1a and major histocompatibility complex class II expression were upregulated and virtually all CD1a++ cells were BG+ by electron microscopy. With prolonged culture, CD1a was downregulated on a major population of cells, paralleled by a loss of BG and an increase of CD4, CD25, and CD80 expression that may correspond to the maturation of epidermal LC in vitro. However, these cells were consistently CD5- and did not exhibit changes in the CD45-isoform expression during culture. The availability of large numbers of these highly purified BG+ LCs and mature DCs allows for specific analysis of these subpopulations and provides a source of potent antigen-presenting cells from individual patients for vaccination protocols against infectious or tumor-associated antigens.