The synthetic cytokine (Synthokine) SC-55494 is a high-affinity interleukin-3 (IL-3) receptor ligand that stimulates greater in vitro multilineage hematopoietic activity than native IL-3, while inducing no significant increase in inflammatory activity relative to native IL-3. The aim of this study was to investigate the in vivo hematopoietic response of rhesus monkeys receiving Synthokine after radiation-induced marrow aplasia. Administration schedule and dose of Synthokine were evaluated. All animals were total-body irradiated (TBI) with 700 cGy 60Co gamma radiation on day 0. Beginning on day 1, cohorts of animals (n = 5) received Synthokine subcutaneously (SC) twice daily with 25 micrograms/kg/d or 100 micrograms/kg/d for 23 days or 100 micrograms/kg/d for 14 days. Control animals (n = 9) received human serum albumin SC once daily at 15 micrograms/kg/d for 23 days. Complete blood counts were monitored for 60 days postirradiation and the durations of neutropenia (NEUT; absolute neutrophil count [ANC] 500/microL) and thrombocytopenia (THROM; platelet count 20,000/microL) were assessed. Synthokine significantly (P .05) reduced the duration of THROM versus the HSA-treated animals regardless of dose or protocol length. The most striking reduction was obtained in the animals receiving 100 micrograms/kg/d for 23 days (THROM = 3.5 v 12.5 days in HSA control animals). Although the duration of NEUT was not significantly altered, the depth of the nadir was significantly lessened in all animal cohorts treated with Synthokine regardless of dose versus schedule length. Bone marrow progenitor cell cultures indicated a beneficial effect of Synthokine on the recovery of granulocyte-macrophage colony-forming units that was significantly higher at day 24 post-TBI in both cohorts treated at 25 and 100 micrograms/kg/d for 23 days relative to the control animals. Plasma pharmacokinetic parameters were evaluated in both normal and irradiated animals. Pharmacokinetic analysis performed in irradiated animals after 1 week of treatment suggests an effect of repetitive Synthokine schedule and/or TBI on distribution and/or elimination of Synthokine. These data show that the Synthokine, SC55 94, administered therapeutically post-TBI, significantly enhanced platelet recovery and modulated neutrophil nadir and may be clinically useful in the treatment of the myeloablated host.