In the present study, we investigated the effects of human recombinant interleukin-7 (IL-7) on the proliferation of enriched hematopoietic cells isolated from human adult and fetal bone marrow (BM). In cultures of CD34+ cells, IL-7 was found to induce dose-dependent incorporation of 3H-thymidine (3H-TdR), but had no demonstrable effect on the development of myeloid colony-forming cells. Numbers of B-cell precursors (BCP), initially present within CD34+ populations and which included a CD34+CD20+ subset, were significantly increased when CD34+ BM cells were cultured in the presence of IL-7. This effect was most striking on CD20+ BCP, and resulted at least partly from higher numbers of cycling cells as indicated by Hoechst 33342 fluorescence (Calbiochem, Behring Diagnostics, La Jolla, CA). These results indicate that IL-7 promotes the growth of BCP within the CD34+ compartment. In line with the B-lineage affiliation of CD34+ target cells, committed BCP (CD10+ CD19+ surface IgM-) isolated from BM were also found to proliferate in response to IL-7. Interestingly, this effect of IL-7 was strongly potentiated by the addition of IL-3. Taken together, and in accordance with previous observations on murine cells, our data indicate that IL-7 acts as a growth factor during the ontogeny of human B lymphocytes.