Expression of Ia antigens on granulocyte/macrophage colony-forming cells (CFU-GM) in human cord blood was compared with that in bone marrow with the use of monoclonal OKIal antibody. Mononuclear cells prepared from cord blood and bone marrow were pretreated with OKIal antibody plus complement, and, thereafter, the ability of cord blood and bone marrow cells to form colonies of CFU-GM was assayed in semisolid agar culture. Consistent reduction in the number of CFU-GM in cord blood to 58.8% +/- 13.0% (mean +/- SD) of controls treated with complement alone was shown after elimination of Ia-antigen-bearing CFU- GM, but was significantly remarkable than that in bone marrow (18.0% +/- 5.6%). Although the reduction of both granulocyte (CFC-G) and macrophage colony (CFC-M) types of cord blood, characterized by the double staining for esterase activity, was shown following treatment with OKIal antibody plus complement, the relative inhibition of CFC-G weas significantly greater than that of CFC-M (p less than 0.02). These results suggest some differences in the characteristics of Ia-antigen- bearing CFU-GM between cord blood and bone marrow cells. Furthermore, it is suggested that Ia-dependent regulatory mechanisms might participate in the differentiation of CFU-GM to CFC-G and CFC-M.