We studied the effect of hematopoietic growth factors (granulocyte- macrophage colony-stimulating factor [GM-CSF], granulocyte [G]-CSF, interleukin (IL)-1, IL-3, IL-5, IL-6, and macrophage [M]-CSF) on differentiation and functional activity of human eosinophilic HL-60 cells (Eos-HL-60) and compared them with effects on parental HL-60 promyelocytic leukemia cells. Purified biosynthetic GM-CSF and IL-5 enhanced cell proliferation and induced eosinophilic differentiation in the eosinophilic subline in both liquid and agar cultures. IL-3 and IL- 6 stimulated cell proliferation but had no effect on cell differentiation, whereas IL-1 and G-CSF affected neither differentiation nor proliferation of Eos-HL-60 cells under the conditions tested. GM-CSF-, IL-3-, and IL-5-treated Eos-HL-60 cells showed increased O2- production in response to phorbol esters (PMA), enhanced phagocytosis of Candida albicans, and release of the enzymes arylsulfatase, beta-glucuronidase and eosinophil peroxidase (EPO). The degranulation of eosinophils induced by GM-CSF, IL-5, and IL-3 may have relevance to the potential clinical toxicity of these hematopoietins, which also stimulate eosinophilopoiesis. G-CSF had no effect on enzyme release, oxidative metabolism, or phagocytic capacity of Eos-HL-60 cells. IL-5 did not affect proliferation, differentiation, or enzyme release in promyelocytic HL-60 cells. These results indicate the specificity of IL-5 for the eosinophil lineage, confirm the effects of GM-CSF and IL-3 on eosinophilopoiesis and mature eosinophil function in a model system, and indicate the absence of G-CSF and IL-1 stimulation of eosinophils. The Eos-HL-60 line is a useful model for studying human eosinophil responses to cytokines.