Hematopoiesis occurs in close association with a complex network of cells loosely termed the hematopoietic microenvironment. Analysis of the mechanisms of microenvironmental regulation of hematopoiesis has been hindered by the complexity of the microenvironment as well as the heterogeneity of hematopoietic stem cells and early progenitor cells. We have established immortalized primate bone marrow-derived stromal cell lines to facilitate analysis of the interactions of hematopoietic cells with the microenvironment in a large animal species. One such line, PU-34, was found to produce a variety of growth factors, including an activity that stimulates the proliferation of an interleukin 6-dependent murine plasmacytoma cell line. A cDNA encoding the plasmacytoma stimulatory activity was isolated through functional expression cloning in mammalian cells. The nucleotide sequence contained a single long reading frame of 597 nucleotides encoding a predicted 199-amino acid polypeptide. The amino acid sequence of this cytokine, designated interleukin 11 (IL-11), did not display significant similarity with any other sequence in the GenBank data base. Preliminary biological characterization indicates that in addition to stimulating plasmacytoma proliferation, IL-11 stimulates the T-cell-dependent development of immunoglobulin-producing B cells and synergizes with IL-3 in supporting murine megakaryocyte colony formation. These properties implicate IL-11 as an additional multifunctional regulator in the hematopoietic microenvironment.