The importance of cytokines as mediators in numerous physiologic and pathologic processes became apparent in the early seventies. In a relatively short period of time the number of characterized and functionally defined interleukins increased rapidly. Concomitantly, the understanding of their role in various important reactions in different systems of the organism in general, and in the interaction between the immune, central nervous and neuroendocrine systems in particular increased. IL-3 is one of the cytokines of great significance for hematopoiesis. In addition, it was shown that interleukin-3 (IL-3) participates in the response of the organism to various types of stress. Surprisingly enough, the reports on its production and activation during or following stress are rather scarce. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to try and compile the information on IL-3 and its role in different types of stress, and also to contribute our own modest experience on the subject. (C) 2000 Editions scientifiques et medicales Elsevier SAS.