Recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) was administered to mice to determine its effect on hematopoiesis. BALB/c mice and mice with severe combined immune deficiency (SCID), which lack T cells and B cells, were administered intraperitoneal injections of rhGH for 7 days. Upon analysis, both strains of mice exhibited an increase in splenic and bone marrow hematopoietic progenitor cell content and cellularity, indicating that rhGH can act as a hematopoietic growth factor. C57BL/6 mice were then placed on azidothymidine (AZT). AZT is a reverse transcriptase inhibitor currently used as a treatment for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), but which also produces significant myelotoxic effects. Treatment of mice with rhGH partially counteracted the myelosuppressive properties of AZT. Bone marrow cellularity, hematocrit values, white blood cell counts, and splenic hematopoietic progenitor cell content were all significantly increased if rhGH (20 micrograms injected intraperitoneally every other day) was concurrently administered with AZT. Administration of ovine GH (ovGH), which, unlike rhGH, has no effect on murine prolactin receptors, also prevented the erythroid-suppressive effects of AZT in mice, but had no significant effect on granulocyte counts. Thus, the effects of GH are mediated at least in part through GH receptors in vivo. Additionally, when mice were initially myelosuppressed by several weeks of AZT treatment, the subsequent administration of ovGH resulted in an increase in splenic hematopoietic progenitor cells. No significant pathologic effects were observed in mice receiving either repeated rhGH or ovGH injections. Thus, GH exerts significant direct hematopoietic growth-promoting effects in vivo and may be of potential clinical use to promote hematopoiesis in the face of myelotoxic therapy.