The cDNA for the murine granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) was cloned from a cDNA library obtained from a murine T cell line, IH5.5, by using two synthetic probes that encoded two parts of the GM-CSF from murine lung. The cDNA inserted into the plasmid vector pcDV1 was transfected into monkey COS-1 cells and the conditioned medium was used to investigate the hemopoietic activities of the resultant product, recombinant GM-CSF (rGM-CSF), by means of various colony assays. rGM-CSF stimulated only neutrophil/macrophage colonies in the cultures of murine normal bone marrow and fetal liver cells. No other colony stimulating activities (CSA) were seen in the preparation including burst-promoting activity, eosinophil-CSA, megakaryocyte-CSA and mast cell-CSA. rGM-CSF could not support colony formation of 5-fluorouracil-treated mouse spleen cells, in which only the primitive population of stem cells survived. However, after culture of these cells with PWM-spleen cell-conditioned medium (PWM-SCM), the colonies consisting of blast cells were formed. These blast cells could now be induced to form neutrophil/macrophage colonies in the presence of rGM-CSF. Pure neutrophil colonies, pure macrophage colonies, as well as mixed neutrophil/macrophage colonies, were formed from these single blast cells in the presence of rGM-CSF by micromanipulation. rGM-CSF did not act on pluripotent hemopoietic stem cells, but did act directly and selectively on neutrophil/macrophage progenitors. Moreover, striking heterogeneities were noted in the size of the colonies and the proportion of components. GM-CSF is, therefore, considered to play a noninstructive role in the differentiation of the GM pathway.