Widely used to specifically inhibit gene expression, synthetic oligodeoxynucleotides (ODN) can exert a plethora of non-antisense effects. Immunostimulation by CpG-ODN has attracted particular attention. ODN rich in the nucleotide guanosine (G-rich ODN) constitute another type of sequences displaying non-antisense-mediated effects. We have examined the effects of CpG- and G-rich ODN on primary mouse bone marrow cells (BMC) in vitro. CpG-ODN induced rapid proliferation of B cells and production of IL-6 and IL-12p40. However, when tested in agar colony assays, CpG-ODN failed to promote the formation of colonies. In marked contrast, G-rich non-CpG-ODN led to sustained proliferation of macrophage-like cells without inducing cytokines or hemopoietic growth factors. Unlike CpG-ODN, G-rich ODN effectively induced the formation of macrophage colonies in agar assays, indicating a direct action on progenitor cells. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays revealed specific binding of G-rich ODN to a non-nuclear protein. The ability of a panel of ODN to compete for binding correlated with their potential to induce proliferation of macrophage-like cells from primary mouse BMC. As such, these data reveal a so far unrecognized potential of G-rich ODN to signal directly outgrowth of macrophage progenitors from BMC.