Many nonhematologic tumors produce growth factors that may influence cellular proliferation either by autocrine or by paracrine mechanisms. In the current study, human tumor cell lines were investigated for the constitutive production of macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF). Culture supernatants obtained from cell lines were analyzed using a radioimmunoassay and a radioreceptor assay specific for M-CSF. Among the various cell types analyzed, all the ovarian cell lines and a majority of the breast cancer cell lines secreted significant amount of an M-CSF-like factor. Treatment of mouse bone marrow cultures with culture supernatants from ovarian cancer cells stimulated the production of macrophage colonies. Analysis of total cellular RNA obtained from the ovarian cell lines by Northern blot showed multiple sizes of M-CSF transcripts with an abundance of a 4.2-kb message. The relative amount of M-CSF transcripts correlated with the level of immunoreactive material seen in the culture supernatants.