Interleukin 3 (IL-3) stimulates the proliferation and differentiation of various haematopoietic progenitor cells. Recently, IL-3 and other cytokines were reported to exert a neurotrophic activity and to be associated with neurological disorders, suggesting their complex role in the central nervous system. We now show that overexpression of IL-3 in transgenic mice causes a motor neuron disease with several features of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and progressive muscular atrophy. These animals exhibit hind limb paralysis at 7 months of age, associated with dendritic and axonal degeneration, loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord, and autoimmune reaction against these cells. We examined the effect of IL-3 on embryonic motor neurons survival in mixed spinal cord cultures. Our results suggest that motor neuronal degeneration is not directly triggered by the high level of expression of IL-3.