Interleukin-4 (IL-4) was shown to induce a potent mitogenic response in the IL-3-dependent myeloid progenitor cell line, FDCP-2. Although IL-4 could not sustain long-term growth of FDCP-2 cells, it enhanced their growth in serum-free medium containing IL-3. IL-4 triggered prominent tyrosine phosphorylation of a substrate(s) migrating at 170 kDa and less striking phosphorylation of several other proteins, including the IL-4 receptor. By contrast, IL-3 induced distinct tyrosine phosphorylation of proteins migrating at 145, 97, 70, 55 and 52 kDa in the same cell line. IL-4 treatment of FDCP-2 cells caused a dramatically strong association of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) both with the 170 kDa tyrosine phosphorylated substrate and with the IL-4 receptor itself. By contrast, IL-3 triggered only weak association of PI 3-kinase activity with the 97 kDa substrate. While IL-4 did not affect cellular raf, IL-3 stimulation did induce a shift in its mobility presumably due to serine/threonine phosphorylation. Taken together, our results indicate that IL-4 and IL-3 activate distinct phosphorylation cascades in the same cell background; this may reflect a difference in the biological function of these two cytokines.