IL-1 is released by activated monocytes and is thought to be a key mediator of the host immune response. The availability of the purified and, more recently, recombinant IL-1 has allowed the characterization of other biological properties of this molecule. Thus, IL-1 is thought to have the same properties as hemopoietic 1, a growth factor that has been shown to act on primitive murine hemopoietic cells. Here we report that rIL-1 acts synergistically with granulocyte/macrophage CSF (GM-CSF) or granulocyte CSF in the stimulation of clonogenic cells from many patients with acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML). Although IL-1 by itself has no effect on AML blasts, it can support colony formation under conditions where there is detectable production of endogenous GM-CSF. IL-1 also promotes the growth of multipotential progenitors from normal human bone marrow cells in the presence of GM-CSF. These observations support the hypothesis that in the hemopoietic system, IL-1 has a selective effect on primitive precursors.

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