We have studied the effects of dose rate and dose fractionation on murine pulmonary alveolar macrophage colony-forming cells (AL-CFC). The dose-response curve of AL-CFC to ionizing irradiation has a D(q) of about 100 rad, reflecting the cells' ability to repair sublethal damage. For comparison, we investigated the effect of dose schedule on the committed bone marrow stem cells for both granulocytes and monocytes (GM-CFC) since their dose-response curve has a very small shoulder. We compared the results of dose rates and 3 and 10 rad/min to those obtained with a dose rate of 85 rad/min. We determined survival after giving 100, 300, and 500 rad either in vivo or in vitro. A significant dose rate effect was observed. To study the effect of dose fractionation, a total of 600 rad was given either as a single fraction, three fractions of 200 rad on 3 consecutive days, or six fractions of 100 rad in 3 days. The most dramatic effect was seen in the group that received six 100-rad fractions. No reduction in the number of AL-CFC was seen in this group. In sharp contrast, only a minimal dose schedule effect was observed with GM-CFC.