CD34+ cells isolated from bone marrow or umbilical cord blood from healthy donors were studied for proliferation and differentiation in liquid cultures in the presence of recombinant human granulocyte-monocyte colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), granulocyte CSF (G-CSF), monocyte CSF (M-CSF), and interleukin-3 (IL-3), followed by immunophenotyping for myeloid and myeloid-associated cell surface markers. IL-3, either alone or together with GM-CSF, G-CSF, or M-CSF, induced, on average, 50-fold cell multiplication, GM-CSF five fold to 10-fold, and G-CSF and M-CSF less than fivefold. Cells from cultures stimulated with GM-CSF, G-CSF, or M-CSF alone contained cells with a "broad" myeloid profile, "broader" than observed in cultures with IL-3. However, since IL-3 induced rapid cell multiplication, high numbers of cells expressing early (CD13, CD33) and late myeloid markers (CD14, CD15) were recovered. The presence of other CSFs together with IL-3 did not alter the IL-3-induced effect on the cells. When 5,000 CD34+ cells were cultured with IL-3 alone, the cultures still contained 2,000 to 5,000 CD34+ cells after 14 days of culture, while cells cultured with GM-CSF, G-CSF, or M-CSF contained less than 1,000 CD34+ cells. Furthermore, 1,000 to 3,000 cells were positive for the megakaryocytic lineage marker CD41b after cultures with GM-CSF or IL-3, while cultures with G-CSF or M-CSF did not contain detectable numbers of CD41b+ cells. Finally, erythroid cells could also be generated from purified CD34+ cells. The results show that IL-3 and GM-CSF can induce rapid proliferation of purified CD34+ cells in vitro with differentiation to multiple myeloid lineages, while certain subsets maintain expression of CD34.