The ligand for the human c-kit, recombinant human stem cell factor (SCF), was administered to baboons at doses of 200, 100, 50, 25, and 10 micrograms/kg/d. SCF induced a dose-dependent expansion of hematopoietic colony-forming cells (CFC) of multiple types in both blood and marrow, including colony-forming unit (CFU) granulocyte- monocyte, burst-forming unit-erythroid, CFU-MIX, and high proliferative potential-CFC. These changes were associated with a dose-dependent leukocytosis, involving all leukocyte lineages, a reticulocytosis, and increases in marrow cellularity. At 200 micrograms/kg/d of SCF, CFC in blood were increased 10-fold to greater than 100-fold. This correlated with an increased frequency of CD34+ cells in blood. The frequency of CFC in blood approached that of marrow in some animals. These changes were reversed within 7 to 14 days of stopping SCF. The results of these studies suggest a role for the c-kit ligand in stimulating the expansion of multiple CFC types in blood and marrow for potential therapeutic purposes.