There are different types of myeloid leukemic cells that can be induced to differentiate to mature granulocytes or macrophages by different hematopoietic regulatory proteins. One type of leukemic clone can be induced to differentiate by recombinant macrophage and granulocyte differentiation-inducing protein-type 2 (MGI-2), which we have shown is Interleukin-6 (IL-6), and another type of leukemic clone can be differentiated by recombinant granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) or IL-3. There was no subpopulation of growth factor- responsive or differentiation-defective cells before induction of differentiation in either type of clone. In both clones, induction of differentiation-induced requirement for a hematopoietic protein for cell viability. Viability of the cells was maintained by IL-6, IL-3, or macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) but not by GM-CSF in the cells differentiated by IL-6, and by GM-CSF or IL-3 but not by IL-6 or M-CSF in the cells differentiated by GM-CSF or IL-3. The viable cells with a differentiated phenotype continued to multiply. In undifferentiated leukemic cells with no or few surface receptors for some of these proteins, there was an upregulation of the number of receptors during differentiation for the proteins to which the cells responded. But there were also differentiating leukemic cells with an upregulation of GM-CSF receptors although GM-CSF could not maintain the viability of the differentiating cells. The results indicate that induction of hormone responsiveness and upregulation of the hormone receptors can both occur in differentiating leukemic cells, and that the regulation of these two events can be separated.