Osteopetrosis and the absence of colony-stimulating factor 1 (CSF-1) in op/op mice are associated with decreased cellularity of the bone marrow (to one tenth of the normal), a very significant reduction in the number of cells recovered from peritoneal, pleural, and alveolar lavages, moderate leukopenia, and a slight decrease in the number of cells per spleen and thymus. Furthermore, op/op mice possess deficiencies in the number of macrophages in various organs. These cells are apparently absent in the bone marrow, severely reduced (5%-15% of the normal number) in peritoneal and pleural cavities and in the lungs. In addition, a marked decrease in the frequency and total number of circulating monocytes is present (5% of the normal). The deficiency of macrophages is less severe in the liver, spleen, and thymus of op/op mice (approximately 30% of those seen in normal). There is a concomitant redistribution of macrophage progenitor cells (granulocyte-macrophage colony-forming units, CFU-GM) in op/op mice from the marrow to the spleen and liver, associated with an increased sensitivity to interleukin 3 (IL-3). Their total number is decreased at least threefold compared to control mice. Moreover, op/op mice have at least a fivefold reduction in the total number of day-11 spleen colony-forming units (CFU-S) associated with their redistribution to the spleen and liver. These data suggest that the macrophage system in op/op mice is reduced at all levels tested, that is, at the level of mature macrophages, the level of progenitors, and the level of stem cells, whereas the redistribution of progenitor and stem cells could be viewed as a secondary consequence of osteopetrosis. Furthermore, these data suggest that macrophage dependency in vivo on CSF-1 is limited and different in various organs. Particularly in the liver, spleen, and thymus, other growth factors may significantly compensate for CSF-1 deficiency. Based on the relative decrease in the number of CFU-GM in the op/op mice, it appears that the population size of these progenitors is less dependent on CSF-1 than the hematopoietic stem cell population size as evidenced by the day-11 CFU-S assay. The day-11 CFU-S population is severely reduced in op/op mice, suggesting a physiological involvement of CSF-1 in expanding its size. These data provide evidence that CSF-1, besides acting on the final and intermediate stages of macrophage maturation, may also play a role in early stages of hematopoiesis.