B19 human parvovirus is the etiologic agent of transient aplastic crisis. To better understand B19 virus-induced hematopoietic suppression, we studied the host cell range of the virus using in vitro bone marrow cultures. First, B19 virus replication was examined in the presence of various purified cytokines using DNA dot blot analysis. Replication was detected only in erythropoietin-containing cultures. The other cytokines (granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor [GM-CSF], G-CSF, M-CSF, interleukin-1 [IL-1], IL-2, IL-3, and IL-6) did not support virus replication, indicating the restriction of B19 virus replication to the erythroid cell lineage. Second, hematopoietic progenitor cells were serially assayed in B19-infected and uninfected bone marrow cultures. At initiation, B19 virus infection caused marked and moderate reduction in colony-forming unit erythroid (CFU-E) and burst-forming unit erythroid (BFU-E) numbers, respectively, without affecting CFU-Mix and CFU-GM numbers. Interestingly, the recovery of the erythroid progenitor numbers was observed at a late stage of cultures despite the sustained reduction in erythroblasts. The cells in the bursts derived from such reappearing BFU-E did not contain the virus genome. Although infectious virus was detected in the culture supernatants, the cultured CFU-E harvested at day 5 was relatively resistant to B19 virus infection compared with the CFU-E in fresh bone marrow. These findings suggest that pluripotent stem cells escaped B19 virus infection and restored the erythroid progenitor cells later in infected cultures. We conclude that the target cells of B19 virus are in the erythroid lineage from BFU-E to erythroblasts, with susceptibility to the virus increasing along with differentiation. Furthermore, the suppression of erythropoiesis and the subsequent recovery of the erythroid progenitor numbers in B19-infected liquid cultures may be analogous in part to the clinical features of B19 virus- induced transient aplastic crisis.