Although the erythropoietin receptor (EpR) lacks a tyrosine kinase consensus sequence within its proline-rich intracellular domain, addition of its ligand to Ep-responsive cells stimulates the rapid and transient tyrosine phosphorylation of a number of cellular proteins. The characterization of these phosphorylatable substrates, which include 5 major phosphoproteins with molecular masses of approximately 145, 130, 97, 72, and 56 Kd is an essential step in understanding the signal transduction pathways used by Ep. Recently, we and others have shown that the major 72-Kd tyrosine phosphorylated protein is the EpR itself. We now report, using both murine DA-3 and human MO7E cell lines engineered to express high levels of biologically responsive EpRs (and designated DA-ER and MO7-ER, respectively), that the major 56-Kd tyrosine phosphorylated protein is the recently identified SH2- containing protein, p52shc. Interestingly, in Ep-stimulated cells, anti- Shc antibodies coprecipitate the major 145-Kd tyrosine phosphorylated protein in both DA-ER and MO7-ER cells. Tyrosine phosphorylation of both proteins is detectable within 30 seconds of incubation with Ep at 37 degrees C, reaches a maximum between 2 and 5 minutes, and declines by 30 minutes. In addition, tyrosine phosphorylated Shc appears capable of associating with the activated EpR, but this could only be shown in MO7-ER cells. Lastly, as has been shown previously with the tyrosine kinase containing receptors for epidermal growth factor, platelet derived growth factor, and insulin, activation of the EpR leads to the association of p52shc with the 25-Kd polypeptide, Grb2. Taken together, our data suggest that the previously reported increases in rasGTP observed with Ep result, in part, from the tyrosine phosphorylation of Shc and its association with Grb2 and/or a tyrosine phosphorylated 145- Kd protein.