In this article, we present evidence that sialic acid-containing surface components play a role in the regulation of erythropoiesis. A 1- hr exposure of mouse bone marrow cells to high concentrations of neuraminidase reduced erythroid colony formation. Coculture of 10(6) untreated thymocytes with neuraminidase-treated bone marrow cells restored erythroid colony growth. Neuraminidase-treated thymocytes retained their ability to suppress erythroid colony formation by untreated marrow cells, but lost their ability to enhance erythroid colony formation. Continuous exposure to low concentrations of neuraminidase enhanced erythroid bone marrow cell colony growth in response to a suboptimal dose of erythropoietin.