Juvenile chronic myelogenous leukemia (JCML) is a rare myeloproliferative disorder of early childhood that is clinically and cytogenically distinct from the well-recognized adult type of chronic myeloid leukemia. Unlike the adult disease, growth of hematopoietic progenitors from peripheral blood (PB) occurs in the absence of exogenous stimulus even at low cell densities. This so-called “spontaneous”growth can be abrogated by adherent cell depletion and appears to depend on production of endogenous growth factors. We studied seven children with JCML to determine the nature of endogenous stimulators. With isolated PB mononuclear cells (PBMNCs) and a 3H- thymidine (3H-TdR) incorporation assay, JCML cells were shown to incorporate high levels of 3H-TdR when cultured in the absence of stimulus even at low cell densities. When neutralizing antisera prepared against each of the four known colony-stimulating factors (CSFs), GM-CSF, G-CSF, M-CSF, and interleukin-3 (IL-3), as well as antisera against interleukin-1 (alpha and beta) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) were added to these cultures, only the antisera against recombinant human GM-CSF (rhGM-CSF) consistently resulted in significant inhibition of cell proliferation, achieving up to 72% inhibition of 3H-TdR incorporation in one case. Monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) against rhGM-CSF resulted in a similar and highly significant degree of inhibition. A marked inhibitory effect of rhGM-CSF antiserum on “spontaneous” growth of PB CFU-GM derived colonies in semisolid medium was also demonstrated in four of five patients studied (87% to 90% inhibition). Production of growth factors by highly enriched JCML monocytes was variable. When initially studied in five of the seven patients, the monocytes from three of the patients revealed increased release of IL-1-like activities; two patients had levels similar to those of controls. One patient with normal levels when initially studied was later shown to have markedly increased amounts of IL-1-like activities in a second preparation of monocyte-conditioned medium (MCM). High levels of GM-CSF were detected in the initial MCM from one patient, but this may have indirectly reflected elevated IL-1-like activities present in the MCM. IL-3 and M-CSF levels were either low or undetectable in the patients studied as compared with MCM prepared with normal adult monocytes. These results clearly implicate GM-CSF as the primary endogenous regulator of JCML cell proliferation in culture and suggest that this malignant myeloproliferative disease may in part result from paracrine stimulation of marrow progenitor cells by growth factors/cytokines secreted by the malignant monocytes.