Newborns are predisposed to neutropenia and thrombocytopenia during bacterial sepsis. The presence of peripheral cytopenias during overwhelming infection may be secondary to decreased hematopoietic growth factor production during states of increased demand. We therefore examined circulating levels of granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) and IL-3, production of G-CSF and IL-3 from unstimulated and stimulated mononuclear cells (MNC), expression of G-CSF and IL-3 genes during unstimulated and stimulated conditions, and equilibrium and binding of G-CSF receptors on mature effector peripheral blood cells of adults and neonates. Serum from cord and adult peripheral blood contained negligible amounts of both G-CSF (less than or equal to 50 pg/mL) and IL-3 (less than or equal to 5 pg/mL). Constitutive supernatant levels of G-CSF and IL-3 from cord and adult unstimulated MNC were also undetectable. However, there was a significant difference in G-CSF and IL-3 production from stimulated cord and adult MNC. Supernatants from stimulated adult MNC had significantly more G-CSF (p less than 0.007) and IL-3 (p less than 0.02). Additionally, Northern blot hybridization and densitometry of autoradiographs demonstrated significantly more G-CSF and IL-3 mRNA transcripts from adult than from cord MNC. Lastly, affinity, binding, and number of G-CSF receptors on cord and adult peripheral effector cells were equal. These data suggest that, during states of increased demand, cord MNC produce less G-CSF and IL-3 than do adult MNC and have an associated reduction in their respective mRNA transcripts. These findings may have implications in the pathogenesis of neonatal cytopenias during states of increased demand, such as sepsis.