Bcl-2 expression has been shown in hematopoietic progenitor cells. Through the use of Bcl-2 specific antisense oligonucleotides we herein report the biologic importance of Bcl-2 expression in primary human CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells committed to the myeloid lineage. In bone marrow or peripheral blood derived CD34+ cells Bcl-2 specific antisense decreased cell survival and inhibited the outgrowth of mixed myeloid colonies. A short-term overnight pretreatment of CD34+ cells with 25 mumol/L of Bcl-2 antisense in liquid culture completely ablated the growth of granulocyte-macrophage colony-forming cells (GM-CFC) in a subsequent 14 days methylcellulose colony assay. Control experiments using corresponding Bcl-2 sense or nonsense oligonucleotides did not significantly impair cell survival or growth of GM-colony-forming unit. Western blot analyses revealed the Bcl-2 antisense dependent inhibition of expression of the Bcl-2 protein in CD34+ progenitor cells. Furthermore, regulation of Bcl-2 expression by various cytokines including interleukin-10 (IL-10) was studied. IL-10′s effects on the formation of mixed myeloid colonies were examined in the absence or presence of Bcl-2 specific antisense. In the absence of Bcl-2 antisense IL-10 significantly extended the colony forming potential of mixed myeloid colonies to 14 days. In the presence of Bcl-2 antisense rhIL-10 completely restored GM-CSF driven colony growth. Fluorescent microscopy, Western blot analysis, and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction revealed the IL-10 dependent increase in cellular expression of Bcl-2 protein and Bcl-2 mRNA transcripts in CD34+ cells. Thus these results show that Bcl-2 expression is necessary for the formation of GM-CSF-dependent colony growth in vitro and that rhIL-10 increases Bcl-2 expression and survival in primary human CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells that are committed to the myeloid lineage.