The mechanism of action of the hemopoietic growth factor, murine interleukin-3 (mIL-3), was investigated using an mIL-3-dependent multipotential hematopoietic cell line, B6SUtA1. Murine granulocyte- macrophage colony-stimulating factor (mGM-CSF) was as potent as mIL-3 in stimulating these cells. In addition, sodium orthovanadate, an inhibitor of phosphotyrosine phosphatase, and 12-O-tetradecanoyl- phorbol-13-acetate (TPA), a known activator of protein kinase C, also stimulated DNA synthesis in these cells, suggesting that protein phosphorylation might be involved in the mechanism of action of mIL-3 and mGM-CSF. To assess this possibility, intact B6SUtA1 cells exposed for brief periods to mIL-3, mGM-CSF, and TPA were analyzed for changes in phosphorylation patterns using metabolic 32P-labeling and antibodies to phosphotyrosine. Both mIL-3 and mGM-CSF induced the serine-specific phosphorylation of a 68-Kd cytosolic protein, whereas all three agents stimulated the serine-specific phosphorylation of a 68-Kd membrane protein. Furthermore, mIL-3 stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of the 68-Kd membrane protein, as well as of 140-, 90-, 55, and 40-Kd proteins. The 90-Kd protein was also tyrosine phosphorylated in response to mGM-CSF. These phosphotyrosine containing proteins were not detected in TPA-treated cells. These results indicate that protein phosphorylations on tyrosine and serine residues occur in B6SUtA1 cells following short-term incubation with mIL-3 or mGM-CSF and that most of these phosphorylation events are mediated by kinases other than protein kinase C (PkC).