Activating mutations in c-Kit, the receptor for Stem Cell Factor (SCF), have been identified in dysplasias and leukaemias of the mast cell lineage and have been shown to contribute to transformation in model systems. Early myeloid cells also normally express c-Kit and their survival, proliferation and differentiation is promoted by SCE It might therefore be expected that c-Kit mutations could also be involved in some acute and/or chronic myeloid leukaemias. We have found that mutant c-Kit (and normal c-Kit in the presence of SCF) provides a strong differentiation stimulus in normal and immortalised murine early myeloid cells. Since maturation of haemopoietic cells, with the exception of mast cells, results in down-regulation of c-Kit expression, the transforming effects of mutant receptor may be self-limiting in most lineages. This is consistent with the observation that multipotential progenitor cells from some patients with systemic mastocytosis express mutant c-Kit. However, c-Kit mutations have been observed in a few cases of myelodysplastic syndromes or AML without mast cell features. Oncogenesis involves multiple genetic changes and the phenotype of malignant haemopoietic cells expressing mutant c-Kit may be influenced by co-oncogenic events. For example mutations blocking the differentiative effect of mutant c-Kit might result in AML rather than mastocytosis. Thus the extent to which c-Kit mutations contribute to malignancies of early myeloid phenotype remains unknown, and resolution of this issue is complicated by the heterogeneity of this family of diseases.