The initiation and maintenance of cellular differentiation for a variety of cell types has been shown to be influenced by the microenvironment. To investigate the influence of bone marrow stroma on leukemic cell differentiation, HL-60 human promyelocytic leukemia cells were grown in the presence of Triton-treated extracellular matrix derived from normal human bone marrow stromal cells. This bone marrow matrix microenvironment had a dramatic impact on the phenotypic expression of this malignant line. HL-60 cellular proliferation, morphology, nonspecific esterase activity, formation of Fc rosettes, and sensitivity to induction by 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) were all influenced by the presence of matrix molecules. In contrast, stromal cell-conditioned media did not alter HL-60 phenotype. Thus, HL-60 cells appear to retain responsiveness to a human bone marrow stromal cell-derived matrix despite their ability to grow autonomously. Studies of the interaction of leukemic cells and marrow stroma in vitro may provide important information concerning the regulation of leukemic cell behavior.