Many physiologic processes during the early stages of mammalian ontogeny, particularly placental and vascular development, take place in the low oxygen environment of the uterus. Organogenesis is affected by hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) transcription factors that are sensors of hypoxia. In response to hypoxia, HIFs activate downstream target genes growth and metabolism factors. During hematopoietic system ontogeny, blood cas and hematopoietic progenitor/stem cells are respectively generated from mesodermal precursors, hemangioblasts, and from a specialized subset of endothelial cells that are hemogenic. Since HIFs are known to play a central role in vascular development, and hematopoietic system development occurs in parallel to that of the vascular system, several studies have examined the role of HIFs in hematopoietic development. The response to hypoxia has been examined in early and mid-gestation mouse embryos through genetic deletion of HIF subunits. We review here the data showing that hematopoietic tissues of the embryo are hypoxic and express HIFs and HIF downstream targets, and that HIFs regulate the development and function of hematopoietic progenitor/stem cells. (C) 2013 Published by Elsevier Inc.