Thrombopoietin (TPO) is a newly identified hematopoietic growth factor that stimulates both megakaryopoiesis and thrombopoiesis through its interaction with a specific cell surface receptor encoded by the c-mpl proto-oncogene. In an effort to investigate the effect of TPO on human myeloid leukemia cells, the expression of c-mpl and the proliferative response to recombinant human (rh) TPO were investigated in a series of patients with acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML). Of 50 cases of AML, the c-mpl mRNA was detectable by means of Northern blot analysis in 26 cases, and the in vitro treatment with rhTPO led to proliferation of AML cells in 22 cases. The c-mpl expression and proliferative response to rhTPO was observed in all subtypes of AML and did not correlate with French-American-British classification, whereas all cases of M7-type AML cells expressed c-mpl and proliferated in response to rhTPO. Furthermore, rhTPO-induced proliferation of AML cells was augmented with the addition of interleukin-3 (IL-3), IL-6, stem cell factor, or granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor. These results suggested that c-mpl may be functional in terms of supporting proliferation of various types of AML cells and that TPO may contribute, at least in part, to abnormal growth of the cells, especially in combination with other hematopoietic growth factors.