Whereas the molecular natures of M-CSF/CSF-1 and its receptor c-fms are well characterized, its actual role in the intramarrow hematopoiesis remains obscure. This is because disruption of this signaling pathway results in the osteopetrosis mouse that lacks the bone cavity for hematopoiesis. To elucidate the role of c-fms in intramarrow hematopoiesis, we produced an antagonistic monoclonal antibody to murine c-fms and investigated its expression and function in the normal bone marrow. c-fms+ cells were detected both in mature and immature hematopoietic cells. Morphologically, c-kit+c-fms-, c-kit+c-fms+ and c-kit-c-fms+ cells were medium sized blasts, large promyelocytes with azurophilic granules and mature monocytes respectively. CFU-M was 10-fold more enriched in the c-kit+c-fms- than c-kit+c-fms+ fraction. Moreover, injection of the anti c-fms antibody had no effect on the production of CFU-M in the bone marrow, while anti-c-kit mAb could deplete them. As c-kit+c-fms+ cells were readily generated in the culture of c-kit+c-fms- cells, most of the CFU-M in the bone marrow are, in fact, c-fms- cells that differentiate into c-fms+ upon culture. These observations indicate a clear functional hierarchy of c-kit and c-fms in the bone marrow. Namely, c-kit plays the primary role in the production and maintenance of CFU-M, while c-fms, though it co-expressed with c-kit and functions as the growth receptor for M-CSF in the culture, has only a minimum role in the proliferation of c-fms+ cells in the bone marrow.