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More than one-half of adults with non-Hodgkin's B cell lymphomas present with low-grade follicular lymphomas. These tumor cells are found in close association with follicular T lymphocytes and dendritic cells, suggesting that the surrounding cells may play a role in the support of follicular tumors. Supernatants from activated human peripheral blood lymphocytes were found to promote the in vitro proliferation of follicular tumor cells. This effect was entirely due to interleukin 3 (IL-3), a factor generally thought to cause the growth and differentiation of immature hematopoietic cells. IL-3 receptors were detected on fresh isolates of all primary follicular cell tumors examined. These findings suggest that follicular cell tumors may be dependent in vivo on IL-3 and that therapies directed against IL-3, its receptor, or the T cells that produce it may be effective treatment for follicular lymphoma.