The effect of human fibrinogen on the proliferation of purified SBA- CD34+ human bone marrow progenitors was investigated in clonal cultures. Fibrinogen alone or in combination with erythropoietin had no significant effect. However, in the presence of recombinant human interleukin-3 (IL-3), fibrinogen increased significantly in a dose- dependent manner the number of mixed and burst-forming unit-ethrocyte-- derived colonies, whereas the number of other colonies did not significantly change. In the presence of fibrinogen, low concentrations of IL-3 (0.17 U/mL) produced three times more mixed colonies than without fibrinogen, reaching the number of colonies obtained with optimal concentrations of IL-3 (1.67 U/mL). Fibrinogen fragment D had the same effect in the presence of IL-3 as intact fibrinogen, whereas fibrinogen fragment E and human collagen IV did not. This effect was not mediated by integrins, because peptides or monoclonal antibodies that block fibrinogen binding on integrins alpha IIb beta 3, alpha v beta 3 (RGD-peptides), alpha m beta 2 (OKM-1), and alpha x beta 2 (HC1/1) did not affect the observed mitogenic effect. The mitogenic effect of fibrinogen and its D fragment was not mediated by induction of IL-6 or granulocyte--colony-stimulating factor secretion, because it was not inhibited by blocking antisera against these two growth factors. Our results indicate that fibrinogen potentiates the effect of IL-3 on primitive hematopoietic progenitors and suggest that the mitogenic effect of fibrinogen could be mediated via a specific mitogenic receptor that does not belong to the integrin family.