The cytokine granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) is produced by numerous cell types including immune and endothelial cells. G-CSF binding to its receptor G-CSF-R which belongs to the cytokine receptor type I family depends on the interaction of alpha-helical motifs of the former and two fibronectin type III as well as an immunoglobulin-like domain of the latter. It activates several signalling transduction pathways including PI3K/Akt, Jak/Stat and MAP kinase, thereby promoting survival, proliferation, differentiation and mobilisation of haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Accordingly, recombinant human (rh)G-CSF has been extensively used in clinical haematology and oncology to enable bone marrow transplantation or to treat chemotherapy-associated neutropenia. Using animal models it has been recently shown that G-CSF, alone or in combination with other cytokines such as stem cell factor (SCF), causes an accumulation of bone marrow-derived cells in the infarcted heart which, however, do not differentiate into cardiac cells. Nevertheless, since beneficial effects on structural and functional properties were observed in animal models of cardiac, brain and hindlimb ischaemia other mechanisms of G-CSF action must be operative. Recent evidence suggests paracrine effects mediated by the immigrated bone marrow-derived cells and/or direct effects of the cytokine on resident G-CSF-R expressing cells. In both cases these may include promotion of cellular survival, proliferation and differentiation. First clinical studies in patients with myocardial infarction, heart failure and stroke have been accomplished and are reviewed in this paper.