A possible role for calmodulin in the colony growth of human hematopoietic progenitor cells was investigated using pharmacologic approaches. We obtained evidence for a dose-dependent inhibition of colony formation of myeloid progenitor cells (CFU-C) stimulated by interleukin-3 (IL-3), granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), or granulocyte CSF (G-CSF) by three calmodulin antagonists, N-(6-aminohexyl)-5-chloro-1-naphthalenesulfonamide hydrochloride (W-7), N-(4-aminobutyl)-5-chloro-2-naphthalenesulfonamide hydrochloride (W-13), and trifluoperazine. Chlorine-deficient analogs of W-7 and W-13, with a lower affinity for calmodulin, did not inhibit the growth of CFU-C colonies. W-7, W-13, and trifluoperazine inhibited the colony formation of immature erythroid progenitor cells (BFU-E) stimulated by IL-3 plus erythropoietin (Ep) or GM-CSF plus Ep, in a dose-dependent manner, while they did not affect the colony formation of mature erythroid progenitor cells (CFU-E) induced by Ep. W-7, W-13, and trifluoperazine also led to a dose-dependent inhibition of GM-CSF-induced colony formation of KG-1 cells. Calmodulin-dependent kinase activity derived from the KG-1 cells was inhibited by these three calmodulin antagonists in a dose-dependent manner. These data suggest that calmodulin may play an important regulatory role via a common process in the growth of hematopoietic progenitor cells stimulated by IL-3, GM-CSF, and G-CSF. Mechanisms related to the growth signal of Ep apparently are not associated with calmodulin-mediated systems.