Acute myelofibrosis is often associated with acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AMKBL). Although the exact mechanism for the progression of myelofibrosis in AMKBL is unclear, certain humoral factors from megakaryoblastic cells, the precursors of platelets, may be involved in the enhancement of collagen synthesis by bone marrow fibroblasts. The present study, therefore, is an investigation of the possible pathogenic role of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), known to be a very potent collagen-stimulating factor found in platelets in the myelofibrosis of AMKBL. The results obtained were as follows: (1) Conditioned media from peripheral megakaryoblasts taken from an AMKBL patient and from established megakaryoblast cell lines (MEG-01) had much greater stimulatory effects on collagen synthesis in bone marrow fibroblasts than conditioned media from other leukemic cell types. (2) Based on an assessment of soft agar colony formation, there was greater TGF-beta activity in media that had been conditioned from megakaryoblasts than in media from other leukemic cell types. (3) When compared with other leukemic-cell types, megakaryoblasts showed substantially greater expression of TGF-beta mRNA that was hybridized at 2.5 kb with a TGF-beta cDNA probe, and TGF-beta polypeptides were detected at 13 Kd with anti-TGF-beta antibodies. (4) The addition of the anti-TGF-beta antibody inhibited the stimulatory effects of the megakaryoblast conditioned medium on collagen synthesis in bone marrow fibroblasts. These results clearly suggest that megakaryoblasts produce and secrete an active form of TGF-beta and stimulate collagen synthesis in bone marrow fibroblasts in a paracrine manner.