A macrophage-derived inhibitor of early hematopoietic progenitors (colony-forming unit-spleen, CFU-A) called stem cell inhibitor was found to be identical to macrophage inflammatory protein-1 alpha (MIP-1 alpha). We investigated the effect of MIP-1 alpha on the earliest stem cells that sustain long-term hematopoiesis in vivo in a competitive bone marrow repopulation assay. Because long-term reconstituting (LTR) stem cells are normally quiescent, an in vivo model was first developed in which they are triggered to cycle. A first 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) injection was used to eliminate later progenitors, causing the LTR stem cells, which are normally resistant to 5-FU, to enter the cell cycle and become sensitive to a second 5-FU injection administered 5 days later. Human MIP-1 alpha administered from day 0 to 7 was unable to prevent the depletion of the LTR stem cells by the second 5-FU treatment, as observed on day 7 in this model, suggesting that the LTR stem cells were not prevented from being triggered into cycle despite the MIP-1 alpha treatment. However, the MIP-1 alpha protocol used here did substantially decrease the number of more mature hematopoietic progenitors (granulocyte-macrophage colony-forming cells [CFC], burst- forming unit-erythroid, CFCmulti, and preCFCmulti) recovered in the bone marrow shortly after a single 5-FU injection. In vitro, MIP-1 alpha had no inhibitory effect on the ability of these progenitors to form colonies. This study confirms the in vivo inhibitory effect of MIP- 1 alpha on subpopulations of hematopoietic progenitors that are activated in myelodepressed animals. However, MIP-1 alpha had no effect on the long-term reconstituting stem cells in vivo under conditions in which it effectively reduced all later progenitors.