Addition of prostaglandins of the E series (PGE1, PGE2) in methylcellulose cultures of murine marrow results in a dose-dependent inhibition of the cloning efficiency of both BFU-E and CFU-C. However, CFU-E growth is unaffected. The inhibitory action of PGE is progressively overcome by increasing amounts of colony-stimulating factor (CSF), and with some limitations, also of erythropoietin (Ep). Addition of PGF2 alpha' associated or not with indomethacin, does not exert any significant effect on these hemopoietic precursors. In an attempt to unvail the mechanism(s) underlying these phenomena, dibutyryl-cyclic AMP (db-cAMP), theophylline (an inhibitor of phosphodiesterase), or theophylline + PGE were plated at various concentrations. Both db-cAMP and theophylline induce an inhibitory influence on both BFU-E and CFU-C growth, which mimicks that by PGEs; additionally, theophylline potentiates the inhibitory action of PGE1. In all these studies, the CFU-E number was not significantly modified. PGE action on BFU-E proliferation is clearly species-dependent, since PGE1 addition to human marrow methylcellulose cultures induces a significant enhancement of the number of both BFU-E and CFU-E derived colonies. This action was abolished upon removal of adherent cells, thus suggesting that PGE1 evokes a release of factor(s) enhancing human erythroid colony growth by adherent cells.