Because human P40 T-cell growth factor, tentatively designated interleukin-9 (IL-9), was isolated through its ability to stimulate a human IL-3-dependent leukemic cell line (M-O7E), we tested the ability of IL-9 to support the growth and differentiation of normal hematopoietic progenitor cells from peripheral blood and bone marrow. Although the M-O7E cell line was derived from a patient with megakaryoblastic leukemia, IL-9 has not proved to be a growth or maturation factor for megakaryocytes, but instead has proved to be effective in supporting the development of erythroid bursts (BFU-E) in cultures supplemented with erythropoietin. Using highly purified progenitors from peripheral blood, IL-3 showed a BFU-E plating efficiency of 46% compared with 20% for IL-9. Because of the purity of these cell preparations and the low cell density in culture, IL-9 is likely to interact directly with erythroid progenitors. Analysis of mixing experiments and of the morphology of the BFU-E in culture indicated that IL-9 interacts preferentially with a relatively early population of IL-3-responsive BFU-E. In cultures of human bone marrow or cord blood, IL-9 selectively supported erythroid colony formation, while IL-3 and granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor additionally yielded granulocyte/macrophage colonies. Therefore, IL-9 represents a new T cell-derived cytokine with the potential for selectively stimulating erythroid development in the hematopoietic system.