The maintenance of hemopoietic precursors in long-term liquid bone marrow cultures (LTBMC) is associated with the presence of an adherent stromal layer composed of heterogeneous cell populations. We have used a culture assay to promote the growth of one of its cellular components and characterize its properties. Freshly obtained bone marrow cells and cells derived from the adherent layer of LTBMC were grown in methylcellulose-clotted plasma in the presence of phytohemagglutinin-stimulated leukocyte-conditioned medium (PHA-LCM), hydrocortisone (HC), and citrated normal human plasma. Both sources contained cells (CFU-RF) that gave rise to colonies of cells with a reticulofibroblastoid appearance. In the presence of HC, most colonies contained lipid-laden cells. Colonies could be further propagated as adherent layers when transferred into liquid cultures. These cells produced laminin, fibronectin, and collagen types I, III, IV, and V. They were negative for Von Willebrand factor VIII. The ability to synthesize laminin and collagen type IV distinguished these cells from a population of previously described bone marrow fibroblasts (CFU-F). The relationship of CFU-RF to hemopoietic precursors was investigated using patients with chronic myeloid leukemia and bone marrow transplant recipients. Cells within CFU-RF-derived colonies were uniformly negative for the Philadelphia chromosome, thus making it unlikely that they belonged to the malignant hemopoietic clone. CFU-RF-derived colonies in bone marrow transplant recipients were found to be exclusively of host origin. Both observations support the view that CFU-RF is not part of the repertoire of hemopoietic stem cells.