We examined the effects of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) on the growth of murine hematopoietic progenitors supported by interleukin-3 (IL-3) or stem cell factor (SCF) in a serum-free culture system. IFN-gamma inhibited IL-3-dependent granulocyte-macrophage colony growth by normal bone marrow cells, but increased the number of pure and mixed megakaryocyte colonies by post-5-fluorouracil bone marrow cells. The addition of IFN-gamma to the culture containing SCF resulted in a synergistic action on the development of primitive hematopoietic progenitors as well as on the development of mature populations. Primitive progenitors responding to SCF + IFN-gamma were suggested to be supported by SCF in the early stage of development and require IFN- gamma for subsequent growth. Replating experiments of blast cell colonies and comparison of total colony growth among SCF + IFN-gamma, SCF + IL-3, and SCF + IFN-gamma + IL-3 suggest that multipotential progenitors supported by SCF + IFN-gamma are a part of those reactive to SCF + IL-3. These findings suggest that IFN-gamma has bifunctional activity on murine hematopoiesis.