Basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) may act to modulate hematopoiesis in addition to its effects on mesenchymal cells. We studied the effects of bFGF on human and murine primary marrow megakaryocytes. bFGF modestly enhanced the size of the human megakaryocyte colony-forming unit (CFU-MK) and cell numbers per colony, in combination with interleukin-3 (IL-3) or granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF). Adhesion of human megakaryocytes to bone marrow (BM) stromal fibroblasts was enhanced when either stromal fibroblasts or megakaryocytes were treated with bFGF. This resulted in significantly increased proliferation of megakaryocytes. In addition, bFGF augmented secretion of the cytokines tumor necrosis factor alpha and IL-6 by human primary BM megakaryocytes. Immature murine megakaryocytes showed a significant growth response to bFGF as measured by the single cell growth assay. This effect was abrogated by specific antibodies for bFGF and combination of anti-IL-6 and anti-IL-1 beta antibodies. bFGF has no effect on murine CFU-MK formation, but significantly potentiated CFU-MK formation in the presence of IL-3 or GM-CSF. These results indicate that the effect of bFGF on various megakaryocyte populations is different and that bFGF may affect megakaryocytopoiesis via modulation of megakaryocyte-stromal interactions and via augmentation of cytokine secretion from megakaryocytes.