To elucidate the molecular biology of the hematopoietic stem cell, we have begun to isolate genes from murine cell populations enriched in stem cell activity. One such cDNA encodes a novel receptor tyrosine kinase, designated fetal liver kinase-2 or flk-2, which is related to the W locus gene product c-kit. Expression analyses suggest an extremely restricted distribution of flk-2. It is expressed in populations enriched for stem cells and primitive uncommitted progenitors, and is absent in populations containing more mature cells. Therefore, this receptor may be a key signal transducing component in the totipotent hematopoietic stem cell and its immediate self-renewing progeny.