Antitumor chemotherapy is often limited by hematopoietic toxicity. In an attempt to determine if it is possible to attenuate the myelosuppressive effects of chemotherapy, we administered recombinant murine granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (rmGM-CSF), a multilineage hematopoietic growth factor, to mice receiving 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). Mice receiving injection of 5-FU followed 24 hr later by a single 1-microgram injection of rmGM-CSF had significantly increased femoral bone marrow granulocyte-macrophage colony-forming cells (GM-CFC) 48 hr after 5-FU injection compared to animals receiving 5-FU alone. Animals receiving rmGM-CSF twice daily beginning 24 hr after 5-FU had significantly elevated white blood cell counts and increased granulocyte and monocyte counts at Day 7 following 5-FU injection, compared to those of 5-FU animals. The total reserve of GM-CFC was also expanded initially in the femoral marrow and later in the spleen of animals receiving rmGM-CSF following 5-FU. A means of accelerating bone marrow recovery and restoration circulating granulocytes and monocytes could allow more frequent doses of chemotherapy to be administered or shorten the time period that patients are leukopenic.