Thrombopoietin (Tpo), the ligand for the c-Mpl receptor, is a major regulator of megakaryopoiesis. Treatment of mice with Tpo raises the platelet count fourfold within a few days. Conversely, c-mpl knock-out mice have platelet counts that are 15% that of normal. The subunit structure of the c-Mpl receptor is not fully understood. Some cytokines that stimulate megakaryopoiesis (IL-6, IL-11, leukemia inhibitory factor, and oncostatin M) bind to receptors that use gp130 as a signal transduction subunit. For these reasons, we determined whether gp130 function was required for Tpo-induced signal transduction. Murine marrow cells were cultured in semi-solid media in the presence of Tpo or IL-3, with or without a neutralizing anti-gp130 monoclonal antibody (RX187) or a soluble form of c-Mpl receptor (soluble Mpl) that blocks Tpo bioactivity, and the numbers of colony-forming unit-megakaryocyte (CFU-Meg) colonies were counted on day 5. Murine marrow cells were also cultured in suspension under serum-free conditions for 5 days, and megakaryocyte DNA content was measured by flow cytometry, as an index of nuclear maturation. The addition of RX187 did not block Tpo-induced CFU-Meg colony growth nor CFU-Meg nuclear maturation in suspension culture. However, IL-3-induced CFU-Meg colony growth and megakaryocyte nuclear maturation decreased in the presence of RX187. Soluble Mpl completely ablated Tpo-induced CFU-Meg growth, and partially blocked IL- 3-stimulated CFU-Meg growth. Thus the effects of Tpo on megakaryopoiesis in vitro do not depend on cytokines that signal through gp130. Furthermore, it is unlikely that gp 130 serves as a beta chain for the c-Mpl receptor, as Tpo signalling is unimpaired in the presence of RX187. In contrast, the effects of IL-3 on CFU-Meg growth are mediated in part through Tpo and through gp130-signalling cytokines.