Fas ligand (FasL) mediated apoptosis in the bone marrow may contribute to suppression of hematopoiesis in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and in aplastic anemia, and also to the regulation of normal erythropoiesis. To identify potential effector and target cells in this regulatory pathway, we examined the constitutive expression of Fas receptor (Fas) and FasL (total and cell-surface) in myeloid and lymphoid cells and subsets of CD34+ cells in normal healthy adult human bone marrow using multiparameter flow cytometry. A high proportion of CD34+ cells constitutively expressed cell-surface FasL. However, none of the CD34+ cells expressed Fas alone. A reciprocal gradient of expression of FasL and Fas was observed in subsets of CD34+ cells: as compared to primitive CD34+/HLA-DR(-) (DR(-)) cells, a higher proportion of committed CD34+/HLA-DR(++) (DR(++)) cells expressed FasL but fewer expressed Fas; the expression of both molecules was intermediate in CD34+/HLA-DR(dim) cells. Also, the intensity of FasL expression was higher in DR(++) than in DR(-) cells. These results suggest that the homeostatic regulation of myelopoiesis in normal bone marrow is mediated via an autoregulatory feedback loop by myeloid cells and progenitors themselves, at least partly via the Fas-FasL pathway. This notion is also consistent with our recent observation that overexpression of FasL by myeloid cells in MDS correlates directly with anemia, transfusion requirements, and shorter survival, an example of dysregulation of this pathway.