We studied the effect of purified interleukin-3 (IL-3) and erythropoietin on colony formation by hemopoietic progenitors in serum- free cultures of spleen cells from 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)-treated mice. In the presence of IL-3 alone, most of the multilineage (three or more lineages) colonies did not contain erythroid cells. However, in the presence of IL-3 and erythropoietin, most of the multilineage colonies contained various numbers of erythroid cells. Replating experiments suggest that IL-3 maintains the growth of the progenitor cells, which could differentiate into erythroid cells. Erythropoietin facilitated the terminal differentiation and amplification of erythroid cells, although it did not sustain the growth of multipotential stem cells. Single-cell transfer experiments demonstrate that IL-3 supported the late stages of differentiation of neutrophils, macrophages, eosinophils, and megakaryocytes in the absence of lineage-specific factors. Therefore, IL-3 supports the differentiation of multilineage hemopoietic progenitors, and the terminal differentiation of most hemopoietic lineages, with the exception of the erythroid lineage.

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