The maintenance and regulation of continuously renewing tissues is ultimately controlled at the level of stem-cell proliferation. We have recently identified a reversible inhibitor of hemopoietic stem-cell proliferation (stem-cell inhibitor [SCI]), which is identical to the macrophage inflammatory protein, MIP-1 alpha, a 69-amino-acid heparin-binding cytokine. To test the cell/tissue specificity of the inhibition of proliferation by SCI/MIP-1 alpha, we have investigated its activity on epidermal keratinocytes, the principal cell type of another continuously renewing tissue. Here we show that SCI/MIP-1 alpha inhibits the proliferation of epidermal keratinocytes in vitro and that the MIP-1 alpha mRNA is present in epidermal Langerhans cells but not in keratinocytes. This suggests an important growth regulatory function for SCI/MIP-1 alpha in keratopoiesis, as well as hemopoiesis, and may also indicate a novel role for the epidermal Langerhans cell. As SCI/MIP-1 alpha can inhibit the proliferation of embryologically distinct precursor cells, this raises the possibility that it may also function in a number of other tissues.