Overexpression of v-ski blocks the terminal differentiation of chicken erythroblasts, and in cooperation with v-sea causes transformation of these cells, indicating that c-ski may play a role in regulating either proliferation or differentiation in hematopoietic cells. We examined c-ski expression in four different myeloid cell lines which can be induced to differentiate by exposure to phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA). Two of the cell lines are multipotent and have the ability to differentiate into either erythrocytes or megakaryocytes (K562 and HEL cells), one cell line differentiates exclusively into megakaryocytes (CHRF-288-11), and the fourth cell line differentiates into either monocytes or granulocytes (HL-60). Our findings indicate that c-ski mRNA is up regulated by PMA only in those cell lines which respond by differentiating along the megakaryocyte lineage. The extent of differentiation and the observed increase in c-ski mRNA levels are positively correlated with the PMA concentration used to induce differentiation. Experiments in which CHRF-288-11 cells were treated with the protein kinase C (PKC) activator bryostatin 1 indicate that c-ski mRNA induction is not a general effect of PKC activation. The results strongly suggest that c-ski expression is correlated with megakaryocyte maturation.