UT-7 is a human megakaryoblastic leukemia cell line with absolute dependence on interleukin-3, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, or erythropoietin (EPO) for growth and survival. We investigated the effect of thrombopoietin (TPO), the ligand for the receptor encoded by c-mpl proto-oncogene, on the proliferation and differentiation of UT-7 and its sublines. We found that UT-7/GM, which is a subline of UT-7, but neither UT-7 nor UT-7/EPO, can proliferate in response to TPO. The subline, UT-7/TPO, was established from UT-7/GM by culture at lower concentrations of TPO. UT-7/TPO cells had morphologically mature megakaryocytic characteristics such as developed demarcation membrane in the cytoplasm and multinucleated appearance. This was also confirmed by the high expression of platelet factor-4 and glycoprotein IIb at the mRNA levels and by the high level of DNA content. UT-7/TPO can be maintained by TPO alone, with a doubling time of 24 hours in log growth phase. In the absence of TPO, the majority of the cells died within a few days. Thus, UT-7/TPO has an absolute dependence on TPO for growth and survival and has mature megakaryocytic features. The mRNA for c-mpl was detected in UT-7/TPO and, to a lesser degree, in UT-7/GM. The mRNA level of NF- E2 p45, reported to be an erythroid-specific transcription factor, was upregulated in UT-7/TPO, whereas it was down-regulated in the erythroid subline, UT-7/EPO. There were no significant differences in GATA-1 and GATA-2 mRNA levels among UT-7 and its sublines. Not only EPO but also TPO induced the tyrosine phosphorylation of JAK2 tyrosine kinase and STAT5-related protein. These findings indicate that UT-7/TPO would be a useful model with which to analyze the gene regulation of megakaryocytic maturation- associated proteins and to study the specific actions of TPO.