In contrast to the murine system, long-term hamster bone marrow suspension cultures maintain proliferation of both pluripotent and committed stem cells in the absence of an adherent layer and without addition of exogenous factors, such as hydrocortisone. Addition of pokeweed-mitogen-stimulated hamster spleen conditioned medium (SCM) to these long-term suspension cultures produces an increase in the number of mixed colonies assayed in soft-agar, These mixed colonies, which contained four cell lineages--granulocytic, erythroid, megakaryocytic, and macrophage--could be generated from cells grown in suspension for over 6 mo. Addition of SCM also induces an initial rapid expansion of the myeloid compartment, and this expansion results in 70% of the cells being terminally differentiated granulocytes. In contrast, addition of SCM to hamster bone marrow cultures containing both adherent cells and hematopoietic stem cells produced no change in the number of mixed colonies generated in the culture. This system allows the in vitro study of the process of stem cell proliferation and differentiation and also provides a means to examine the relationship of adherent and supernatant bone marrow populations.