In order to study cell kinetics involved in long-term hematopoiesis, we studied single sorted candidate hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) from fetal liver cultured in the presence of a mixture of stimulatory cytokines. After 8-10 days in culture, the number of cells varied from less than a hundred to more than ten thousand cells. Single cells in slowly growing colonies were recloned upon reaching a 100-200-cell stage. Strikingly, the number of cells in subclones varied widely again. These results are indicative of asymmetric divisions in primitive hematopoietic cells in which the proliferative potential and cell cycle properties are unevenly distributed among daughter cells. The continuous generation of heterogeneity in cell cycle properties among the clonal progeny of HSC appears a relevant mechanism to maintain long-term maintenance of hematopoiesis in vitro and in vivo.