Approximately half of the colony-forming units-culture (CFU-C) from normal peripheral blood are eosinophilic. The purpose of our study was to determine: (1) whether progenitor cells committed to eosinophil or neutrophil maturation would be differentially affected by feedback inhibition, and (2) whether mature eosinophils added to the feeder layers of the culture would inhibit the proliferation of CFU-C in a manner similar to that described for neutrophils. Concentrated eosinophils and neutrophils, obtained by separation on a metrizamide gradient, were added to feeder layers containing either 10(6) autologous whole mononuclear cells (WMNC) or 0.1 ml of leukocyte conditioned media (LCM). The average number of colonies was 123/10(6) nonadherent cells (NAC) cultured. When neutrophils or eosinophils were added to the WMNC feeder layer, the percent inhibition of growth was 40.2% +/- 1.6% (mean +/- SEM) and 42.3% +/- 5.4%, respectively, but the ratio of neutrophil to eosinophil colonies remained constant. No effect was seen when neutrophils or eosinophils were added to an LCM feeder layer. Thus, it appears that the differential control of neutrophil versus eosinophil production in vitro is not regulated through feedback inhibition by mature granulocytes. In addition, these studies suggest that eosinophils, as well as neutrophils, cause inhibition of CFU-C growth when intact cells are the source of colony-stimulating factor (CSF).