In response to granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor plus tumor necrosis factor α, cord blood CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells differentiate along two unrelated dendritic cell (DC) pathways: (1) the Langerhans cells (LCs), which are characterized by the expression of CDla, Birbeck granules, the Lag antigen, and E cadherin; and (2) CD14+ cell- derived DCs, characterized by the expression of CD1a, CD9, CD68, CD2, end factor XIIIa (Caux etal, J Exp Med 184:695, 1996). The present study investigates the functions of each population. Although the two populations are equally potent in stimulating naive CD45RA cord blood T cells through apparently identical mechanisms, each also displays specific activities. In particular CD14-derived DCs show a potent and long-lasting (from day 8 to day 13) antigen uptake activity (fluorescein isothiocyanate dextran or peroxidase) that is about 10-fold higher than that of CD1a+ cells, which is restricted to the immature stage (day 6). The antigen capture is exclusively mediated by receptors formannose polymers. The high efficiency of antigen capture of CD14-derived cells is coreguleted with the expression of nonspecific esterase activity, a tracer of lysosomial compartment. In contrast, the CD1a+ population never expresses nonspecific esterase activity. The most striking difference is the unique capacity of CD14- derived DCs to induce naive B cells to differentiate into IgM-secreting cells, in response to CD40 triggering and interleukin-2. Thus, although the two populations can allow T-cell priming, initiation of humoral responses might be preferentially regulated by the CD14-derived DCs. Altogether, those results show that different pathways of DC development might exist in vivo: (1) the LC type, which might be mainly involved in cellular immune responses, and (2) the CD14-derived DC related to dermal DCs or circulating blood DCs, which could be involved in humoral immune responses.