To understand the functional roles that the GATA factors may play during hematopoietic cell differentiation, we examined the expression of GATA factor mRNAs and protein products in various human cell lines. Blot hybridization analyses demonstrated that GATA-1 and GATA-2 mRNAs are expressed abundantly in a set of cell lines established from human myelogenous leukemia cells, but the expression pattern of each factor is distinct. GATA-2 mRNA is expressed in all cell lines tested that express erythroid markers, and, in addition, the mRNA is also expressed in three CD34+ cell lines and two early myeloid cell lines. In contrast, the expression of GATA-1 mRNA showed tight correlation to that of the erythroid/megakaryocytic lineage markers. We also found that the GATA-2 probe identifies two types of mRNA. Structural analysis of genomic DNA clones encoding human GATA-2 coupled with RNA blot analysis demonstrated that there exists an alternative use of polyadenylation consensus sequences in a single exon and this causes the molecular heterogeneity among GATA-2 mRNAs. Through immunochemical and immunohistochemical analyses using anti-GATA-1- and anti-GATA-2- specific antibodies, GATA-2 protein was clearly shown to be present in the nuclei of leukemia-derived early myeloid and CD34+ cell lines, whereas both GATA-1 and GATA-2 proteins are expressed in erythroid/megakaryocytic cell lines. Thus, the expression profile of GATA-2 is consistent with the hypothesis that GATA-2 plays unique roles for the transcriptional activation of genes in cells at an early stage of hematopoietic differentiation and in developing cells of the erythroid and myeloid lineages.