The antileukaemic tyrosine kinase inhibitor, imatinib, has been reported to inhibit specifically the growth of bcr-abl expressing CML progenitors at levels of 0.1-5.0 microM, by blocking the ATP-binding site of the kinase domain of bcr-abl. Inhibition of the c-abl, platelet-derived growth factor receptor and stem cell factor receptor (c-kit) tyrosine kinases by imatinib has also been reported. Here, we demonstrate that imatinib significantly inhibits in vitro monocyte/macrophage development from normal bone marrow progenitors, while neutrophil and eosinophil development was less affected. Monocyte/macrophage inhibition was observed in semisolid agar and liquid cultures at concentrations of imatinib as low as 0.3 microM. The maturation of monocytes into macrophages was also found to be impaired following treatment of cultures with 1.0 microM imatinib. Imatinib blocked monocyte/macrophage development in cultures stimulated with and without M-CSF, suggesting that inhibition of the M-CSF receptor, c-fms, by imatinib was unlikely to be responsible. Imatinib may therefore have an inhibitory activity for other kinase(s) that play a role in monocyte/macrophage differentiation. This inhibition of normal monocyte/macrophage development was observed at concentrations of imatinib achievable pharmacologically, suggesting that imatinib or closely related derivatives may have potential for the treatment of diseases where monocytes/macrophages contribute to pathogenesis.