The effect of recombinant human interleukin 6 (rhIL-6) on the in vitro growth of human bone marrow myeloid progenitors (granulocyte-macrophage colony-forming units, CFU-GM) was investigated. Recombinant human IL-6 by itself did not induce colony formation. When rhIL-6 at various concentrations was added to the CFU-GM colony cultures containing recombinant human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (rhG-CSF) or recombinant human granulocyte-monocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (rhGM-CSF), rhIL-6 significantly suppressed the colony formation induced by rhG-CSF, but not by rhGM-CSF. This suppressive effect of rhIL-6 on rhG-CSF-induced, but not rhGM-CSF-induced colony formation was confirmed by using an MY10(+)-cell-enriched population. Neither interleukin 3 nor interleukin 1 alpha suppressed the growth of myeloid progenitors. The preincubation of bone marrow cells with rhIL-6 for a short time (30 min) resulted in a reduction of colonies induced by rhG-CSF, but not by rhGM-CSF. The suppressive effect of rhIL-6 on rhG-CSF-induced colony formation was not observed when the cells were preincubated together with rhG-CSF at a high ratio of rhG-CSF to rhIL-6. The rhIL-6-mediated suppressive effect was further confirmed by blocking the effect by the anti-IL-6 antibody. These results suggest antagonistic interaction between IL-6 and G-CSF in the later differentiation of myeloid progenitors.