Myeloid progenitor cell cultures (CFU-C) were established in a double- layer agar system with peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 13 patients with the hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES). Normal controls produced 49% +/- 3.5% eosinophil colonies; results in 7 of the 13 HES patients were within the normal range, while in 5, the proportion of eosinophil colonies was greater than 3 standard deviations above the normal mean, and in 1 patient there was a low proportion of eosinophil colonies. The production of an increased proportion of eosinophil colonies correlated with more aggressive disease. Experiments in which normal progenitor cells were cultured over feeder layers of mononuclear cells demonstrated that cells of 3 of the 5 patients had an excess production of eosinophil colony-stimulating activity. When HES patients progenitor cells were cultured over normal feeder layers, 2 of the 5 patient samples continued to produce an increased proportion of eosinophil colonies, suggesting that these patients have an excess proportion of progenitor cells committed to eosinophil differentiation. Thus, the results demonstrated heterogeneity of growth characteristics for the HES patients. None, however, had the colony growth characteristic of acute or chronic myelogenous leukemia.