The regulation of myelopoiesis was evaluated in B6D2F1 mice inoculated with Friend virus complex (spleen focus-forming virus plus helper virus) or helper virus alone by analyzing acidic isoferritin (AIF) and lactoferrin (LF) interactions with target cells. Under normal conditions, AIF suppresses colony and cluster formation by an Ia- antigen-positive cycling subpopulation of mouse granulocyte-macrophage progenitor cells (CFU-GM). Under the same conditions, the release of AIF-inhibitory activity and granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulatory factors (GM-CSF) from an Ia-antigen-positive subpopulation of monocytes and macrophages is suppressed by LF. Within one to two days after inoculation in vivo with Friend virus complex or helper virus, mouse CFU-GM become insensitive in vitro to suppression by purified human AIF as well as crude mouse AIF, and by four days, bone marrow, spleen, and thymus cells of these mice release much greater quantities of AIF- inhibitory activity than the cells from mice injected with control medium. The Friend virus complex itself has no influence in vitro on CFU-GM from normal mice. In addition, the release of AIF-inhibitory activity from bone marrow, spleen, and resident peritoneal cells and the release of GM-CSF from resident peritoneal cells of mice infected with Friend virus complex are not suppressed by LF. The inability of AIF to suppress colony formation by bone marrow and spleen CFU-GM from mice infected with Friend virus complex is associated with the loss of Ia (I-A subregion) antigens from CFU-GM, even though CFU-GM are in cycle. The nonresponsiveness of bone marrow, spleen, and peritoneal cells from these mice to LF suppression of AIF release and the inability of LF to influence GM-CSF release from peritoneal cells is associated with loss of Ia antigens from these cells. The above abnormalities are similar to the defects noted using cells from patients with leukemia. These results suggest that mice infected with Friend virus complex can serve as a model for investigating abnormalities in cell regulation and their relationships to disease progression.