Interleukin 3 (IL-3) and granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) exert their biological functions through acting on a specific receptor which consists of a ligand-specific alpha subunit and the shared common beta subunit. Inhibition by genistein of a subset of IL-3/GM-CSF-mediated signals, including c-myc induction, resulted in the abrogation of DNA synthesis, however, IL-3 still protected cells from apoptotic cell death. Conversely, a C-terminal truncated form of the GM-CSF receptor, which is missing a critical cytoplasmic region required for activation of the Ras/Raf-1/MAP kinase pathway, induced DNA synthesis, but failed to prevent cell death in response to GM-CSF. Consequently, cells died by apoptosis in the presence of GM-CSF, despite displaying a transient mitogenic response. However, expression of activated Ras protein complemented defective signalling through the mutant receptor and supported long-term proliferation in concert with GM-CSF. These results indicate that IL-3 and GM-CSF prevent apoptosis of hematopoietic cells by activating a signalling pathway distinct from the induction of DNA synthesis and that long-term cell proliferation requires the activation of both pathways.