The human lung fibroblast cell line MRC-5 constitutively produces a megakaryocyte potentiator activity, identified in murine bone marrow liquid culture assays for acetylcholinesterase and megakaryocyte colony assays in the presence of low concentrations of IL-3. The production levels of this activity were increased after stimulation with the phorbol ester analog, mezerein, and the calcium ionophore, A23187. Complete purification of a protein having this activity from conditioned media of induced MRC-5 cells was achieved using gel filtration and ion exchange chromatography. The first 14 residues of the purified protein identified by amino-terminal sequencing were identical to the first 14 residues of IL-6. Recombinant human IL-6 was tested and found to promote megakaryocyte growth. IL-1 beta, another component detected in MRC-5 conditioned media, was unable to promote megakaryocyte colony formation but did reduce the concentration of IL-6 necessary to support megakaryocyte colony formation. Immunoprecipitation using rabbit antiserum prepared against IL-6 removed the megakaryocyte growth activity found in MRC-5 conditioned media. Thus, connective tissue cells such as fibroblasts in the bone marrow may co-stimulate thrombocytopoiesis via IL-6 and, possibly, via IL-1 production.