To study the effect of interleukin-1 (IL-1) beta on the proliferation of hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPC) in long-term bone marrow cultures (LTBMC), stromal cell layers were established from normal human bone marrow. Autologous cryopreserved mononuclear phagocyte- and T-lymphocyte-depleted bone marrow cells were reinoculated on the stromal layers in fresh culture medium, with or without the addition of human IL-1 beta (30 U/mL). Once a week, half of the culture supernatant was replaced with fresh culture medium with or without IL-1, and all nonadherent cells were returned to the flasks. At weekly intervals during a period of 5 weeks, one culture was sacrificed to determine the total number of cells and hematopoietic progenitor cells, present in the adherent and the nonadherent cell fractions. In IL-1-stimulated cultures, the number of cells recovered during a period of 5 weeks exceeded the number of cells in unstimulated control cultures by 1.5 times. This difference was attributed to a twofold increase in the number of adherent cells. The number of HPC recovered from IL-1- stimulated cultures was not different from that recovered from controls. The levels of colony-stimulating activity (CSA) in supernatants from IL-1-stimulated cultures were significantly higher than those in supernatants from control cultures. These results indicate that IL-1 enhances the recovery of cells in LTBMC by stimulating the proliferation of HPC with the concurrent release of CSA from stromal cells, without diminishing the number of HPC.