Mitogen-stimulated murine spleen cells produce humoral substances capable of supporting murine hematopoiesis and pluripotent stem cell proliferation in vitro. Thus, we evaluated conditioned media generated by human spleen cells (SCM) in the presence or absence of mitogens for factors stimulatory for human pluripotent (CFU-GEMM), erythroid (BFU-E), and myeloid (CFU-GM) precursors. Two and one half percent to 10% SCM stimulated proliferation of all three types of precursor cells from nonadherent buoyant human marrow target cells. Mitogen-stimulated SCM augmented CFU-GM (175% to 225%), whereas CFU-GEMM and BFU-E growth was essentially unchanged. Cell separation procedures used to determine which cells provided these microenvironmental stimuli indicated that nonadherent mononuclear spleen cells provided the bulk of the CSF-GM, whereas adherent cells (95% nonspecific esterase + monocyte-macrophages) and nonadherent cells provided similar proportions of CSF-mix and erythroid burst-promoting activity (BPA). The nonadherent cells generating high levels of CSF-mix, BPA, and CSF-GM were predominantly Leu-1-negative, ie, non-T, cells. In the presence or absence of mitogens, SCM was a more potent source (1.3- to 3.8-fold) than peripheral leukocyte CM of the growth factors for the three progenitor cell types. Specific in situ cyotchemical stains for analyzing morphology of myeloid colonies demonstrated that SCM stimulated the proliferation of the same types and proportions of colonies as human placental CM, suggesting that these CMs may contain similar CSF-GMs. These data show the contribution of spleen cell subsets to the generation of hematopoietic growth factors and the responsiveness of these cells to various mitogenic stimuli.