Recombinant human interleukin-5 (rhIL-5), in either liquid or semi- solid cultures, selectively induced eosinophil production from normal human bone marrow, with no activity on other cell lineages. The time course of eosinophil production induced by murine IL-5, rhIL-3, and rh granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GMCSF) was similar to rhIL-5. The rate of eosinophil maturation in vitro was independent of the stimulating cytokine, mature eosinophils being produced after 4 to 5 weeks in liquid culture with each of these cytokines. The eosinophils produced in response to each cytokine were morphologically indistinguishable, and had the ultrastructural features of maturity except that the electron-dense material in the granules had not formed into crystalline cores. Neither rhIL-1 nor rhIL-6 alone, or in combination with rhIL-5 or rhIL-3, induced eosinophil differentiation or proliferation under the conditions used. rhIL-3 and rhGMCSF induced more eosinophil colonies than rhIL-5, rhIL-5 had an additive, not synergistic, effect on eosinophil colony production when combined with either rhIL-3 or rhGMCSF, suggesting that rhIL-5 stimulates a smaller and possibly different population of eosinophil progenitors. However, rhIL-5 induced the greatest eosinophil production in liquid cultures, suggesting that although it may act on a smaller population of precursors, it is able to stimulate more proliferative steps than either rhIL-3 or rhGMCSF.