Human bone marrow cells cultured for 21 days in the presence of recombinant human interleukin-3 (IL-3) produced up to 28 times more colony-forming cells (CFC) than could be obtained from cultures stimulated with granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) or granulocyte-macrophage CSF (GM-CSF). IL-3-cultured cells retained a multipotent response to IL-3 in colony assays but were restricted to formation of granulocyte colonies in G-CSF and granulocyte or macrophage colonies in GM-CSF. Culture of bone marrow cells in IL-3 also led to accumulation of large numbers of eosinophils and basophils. These data contrast with the effects of G-CSF, GM-CSF, and IL-3 in seven-day cultures. Here both GM-CSF and IL-3 amplified total CFC that had similar multipotential colony-forming capability in either factor. G-CSF, on the other hand, depleted IL-3-responsive colony-forming cells dramatically, apparently by causing these cells to mature into granulocytes. The data suggest that a large proportion of IL-3- responsive cells in human bone marrow express receptors for G-CSF and can respond to this factor, the majority becoming neutrophils. Furthermore, the CFC maintained for 21 days in IL-3 may be a functionally distinct population from that produced after seven days culture of bone marrow cells in either IL-3 or GM-CSF.