The putative Wilms' tumor-suppressor gene (wt1) encodes a zinc finger DNA binding protein that functions as a transcription repressor. The wt1 gene expression corresponds to kidney development, suggesting a role for this gene in nephroblast differentiation. Here we show that wt1 mRNA expression was downregulated during terminal differentiation of promyelocytic HL60 cells. When HL60 cells were induced to differentiate to granulocytes by dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) or retinoic acid (RA), a marked downregulation in the levels of wt1 transcripts was found. The wt1 transcripts were also downregulated in HL60 cells during differentiation to monocytes by vitamin D3 or 12-o-tetradecanoyl- phorbol-13-acetate. Nuclear run-on transcription studies showed the transcriptional rate of wt1 gene was not significantly altered during DMSO-induced granulocytic differentiation, suggesting the downregulation was mostly caused by posttranscriptional modification. Importantly, wt1 transcripts were not significantly altered in K562 cells by treatments with DMSO or RA, which do not induce differentiation of K562 cells. These findings suggest that wt1 gene expression may be downregulated as a differentiation-linked event in HL60 cells.