We investigated the effects of B cell stimulatory factor 2/interleukin 6 (BSF-2/IL-6) on the development of murine hemopoietic progenitors using serum-containing culture and serum-free culture. In serum-containing culture, BSF-2 mainly supported multipotential blast cell colonies from spleen cells of normal and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)-treated mice. In serum-free culture, no colony growth was seen in the presence of BSF-2. Addition of BSF-2 to the serum-free culture containing IL-3 resulted in a significant increase in the number of colonies formed from multipotential progenitors in spleen cells and bone marrow cells of 5-FU-treated mice, whereas no effects were seen on the number of single or oligolineage colonies formed by the spleen cells of normal mice. These results suggested that BSF-2 and IL-3 act synergistically on the multipotential progenitors but not on the maturer progenitors. When BSF-2 was added to a culture containing low concentrations of IL-3 (1 U/ml, 4 U/ml), which had little effect on colony formation, the number of total colonies formed by the spleen cells and bone marrow cells of 5-FU-treated mice increased significantly. The combination of BSF-2 and 40 U/ml of IL-3 resulted in a significant enlargement of GMM colonies. Thus, BSF-2 appears to enhance the sensitivity of multipotential hemopoietic progenitors to IL-3.