Hematopoietic cells differentiate in steps marked by the acquisition or loss of specific phenotypic characteristics. Human bone marrow cells that were responsive to the early-acting cytokines Kit ligand and interleukin-3 were forced to a metabolic death. The subfraction remaining represented 1 in 10(5) bone marrow mononuclear cells, were determined to be quiescent by cell cycle analysis, and had a stem cell immunophenotype. The cells were highly enriched for long-term culture-initiating cells, were capable of secondary colony formation, and produced both myeloid and lymphoid progeny. Thus, this technically simple strategy led to the efficient purification of cells with characteristics of hematopoietic stem cells.