The in vivo effect of recombinant human interleukin-3 (rhIL-3) on peripheral blood (PB) levels of hematopoietic progenitor cells was studied in nonhuman primates. Subcutaneous administration of 33 micrograms/kg/d of rhIL-3 for 11 to 14 days to rhesus monkeys slightly raised leukocyte counts (twofold) and substantially expanded the pool of circulating stem cells in the second week of treatment. At the end of rhIL-3 administration, PB levels of granulocyte/macrophage colony- forming units (CFU-GM) increased by a mean of 12-fold; burst-forming units-erythroid (BFU-E) by ninefold; CFU-mix, by 12-fold; and CFU- megakaryocyte (Mk), by 13-fold as compared with their respective pretreatment values. Subsequent administration of recombinant human granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (rhGM-CSF; 5.5 micrograms/kg/d for 5 days) to rhIL-3-pretreated animals further expanded the PB stem cell compartment leading to maximum levels of CFU- GM that were in average much more increased (63-fold) than CFU-GM levels under rhIL-3 (14-fold) or rhGM-CSF (12-fold) alone. This hitherto unknown effect of rhIL-3 on the pool of circulating progenitors, particularly in synergy with rhGM-CSF, may facilitate harvest of hematopoietic progenitor cells from PB for stem cell transplantation.