Administration of interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) before a lethal irradiation with or without allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT) protects greater than 90% of the irradiated mice. To approach the mechanisms responsible for the radioprotective effect of IL-1, we examined the effects of IL-1 pretreatment on engraftment and kinetics of peripheral blood, spleen, and marrow cell reconstitution after irradiation and BMT. Although the BMT was not necessary for the survival of the IL-1-pretreated lethally irradiated mice, allogeneic marrow did engraft in these mice as evaluated in the spleen and marrow 2 months after BMT. IL-1 pretreatment significantly accelerated hematopoietic recovery versus transplanted saline-treated controls with a pronounced enhancement of peripheral leukocyte, platelet, and erythrocyte recovery. Leukocyte recovery in IL-1-pretreated mice was unique in that IL-1 first induced an early transient (maximum at day 7) increase of peripheral granulocytes before accelerating leukocyte recovery after day 11. IL-1 pretreatment also significantly enhanced marrow cell recovery after allogeneic BMT with an eightfold increase in marrow cellularity from day 4 to 11 versus control transplanted mice. When lethal irradiation was not followed by allogeneic BMT. IL-1 pretreatment also affected the peripheral reconstitution of leukocytes, platelets, and erythrocytes. Interestingly, in the absence of BMT, IL-1 also induced an early circulation of peripheral granulocytes. Overall, our data demonstrate that a single administration of IL-1 before lethal irradiation and allogeneic BMT can induce an early transient increase of circulating granulocytes, followed by an accelerated multilineage recovery and long-term allogeneic engraftment.