We have previously shown that murine bone marrow cells cultured with interleukin 2 (IL-2) produce interferon-alpha/beta (MuIFN-alpha/beta) and that IFN-alpha/beta can suppress in vitro granulocyte-macrophage colony-forming cell formation (GM-CFC). In this study, IL-2 was directly assessed for its ability to inhibit in vitro granulocyte and/or macrophage colony-forming cell formation (GM-CFC/M-CFC). C57BL/6 bone marrow cells were cultured with different colony-stimulating factors (CSF), i.e., partially purified macrophage-CSF (M-CSF) or recombinant granulocyte and macrophage CSF (GM-CSF) in the presence or absence of different IL-2 preparations. Partially purified mouse IL-2 or recombinant human or mouse IL-2 (rHuIL-2 and rMuIL-2) totally inhibit GM-CFC and M-CFC formation at 7 days of culture. The level of inhibition mediated by IL-2 was concentration-dependent, with as little as 1 U/ml giving total inhibition of colony formation. The ability of IL-2 to inhibit colony formation was completely abolished by treatment with antisera to IL-2. MuIFN-alpha/beta and MuIFN-gamma appeared to play no role in IL-2-induced myelo-suppression in that addition of antisera to these IFN failed to block IL-2-induced suppression. Myelo-suppression mediated by IL-2 was independent of the concentration of CSF used in the bone marrow cultures. Suppression was also not dependent upon the initial presence of T cells or natural killer (NK) cells. Bone marrow cells depleted of Thy-1+, Lyt-1+, Lyt-2+, NK-1.1+, Asialo GM1+, or Qa-5+ cells were as susceptible to IL-2 induced suppression as untreated or complement-treated bone marrow cells. These results suggest that IL-2 may play an important role in regulating different aspects of hematopoiesis.