MLF1 is a novel protein identified as the NPM-MLF1 chimeric protein produced by a t(3;5)(q25.1;q34) chromosomal translocation, which is associated with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), often prior to acute myeloid leukemia (AML), except for M3. The clinical features of t(3;5)-positive myeloid disorders suggest that this chimeric protein is involved in dysregulation of progenitor cells with the capability to differentiate into multiple lineages. So far, involvement of wild-type MLF1 in hematopoiesis or in leukemogenesis has not been fully investigated. In the present study, 65 patients with AML and 44 patients with MDS were tested for the expression of MLF1 using the quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method. A significantly higher level of MLF1 expression (ratio of MLF1/beta-actin mRNA >0.4) was readily detected in seven of 65 patients with de novo AML, three of 12 with post-MDS AML and seven of 44 with MDS, but not in any patients with ALL (n = 18). According to the FAB classification, high levels of MLF1 were found in patients with relatively immature subtypes of AML (M1, M2, M6 and M7) and high risk MDS (RAEB and RAEB-T). These findings indicate that the pattern of MLF1 expression is identical to the clinical morphology appearing in the t(3;5)-positive myeloid disorders and is correlated to the MDS-associated AML and transformation phase of MDS in t(3;5)-negative myeloid disorders. A CD34+ population of normal bone marrow cells preferentially expressed MLF1 with obviously decreasing levels of expression during maturation. Therefore, MLF1 normally functions in multi-potent progenitor cells and its dysregulation may take part in leukemogenesis from MDS.