To define the relationship between human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection in hematopoietic stem cells and virus production by their progeny, we performed kinetic studies infecting bone marrow (BM) stem cells and culturing them in the presence of hematopoietic growth factors. CD34-positive (CD34+), CD4-negative (CD4-) BM cells were isolated and infected in vitro with the monocytotropic HIV-1JR-FL strain or the laboratory-maintained HTLV-IIIB strain at a high multiplicity of infection. The cells were susceptible to productive infection only with HIV-1JR-FL, and virus production as measured by p24 protein release was markedly increased (more than fivefold) in the presence of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and interleukin-3 (IL-3). Macrophage CSF (M-CSF) was less stimulatory and granulocyte CSF (G-CSF) had no effect on virus production. Virus production coincided with proliferation of mononuclear phagocytes but was not related to granulocytic proliferation in G-CSF-treated BM cultures. Although peak virus production from GM-CSF-treated macrophages occurred 2 to 3 weeks after infection, peak virus production in infected stem cells was observed 5 to 6 weeks after. Enhancement in virus production had a more rapid onset when CD34+/CD4- cells were cultured in the presence of both GM-CSF and IL-3 for 7 or 14 days. Under these conditions there was a 10-fold enhancement in virus production after 7 days of preincubation and a 50-fold enhancement after 14 days. These data indicate that while the stem cell compartment may be susceptible to infection with a monocytotropic HIV-1 strain, productive and sustained infection is realized only after macrophage differentiation. The lack of effect of G-CSF on virus production is likely because of the limited effect of this hematopoietin on mononuclear phagocyte generation and function.