A novel approach for the treatment of leukemia is the differentiation therapy in which immature leukemia cells are induced to attain a mature phenotype when exposed to differentiation inducers, either alone or in combinations with other chemotherapeutic or chemopreventive drugs. Over the past decade, numerous studies indicated that green tea catechins (GTC) could suppress the growth and induce apoptosis on a number of human cancer cell lines. However, the differentiation-inducing activity of GTC on human tumors remains poorly understood. In the present study, the effect of the major GTC epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) on the proliferation and differentiation of a human eosinophilc leukemic cell line, EoL-1, was examined. Our results showed that EGCG suppressed the proliferation of the EoL-1 cells in a dose-dependent manner, with an estimated IC(50) value of 31.5 microM. On the other hand, EGCG at a concentration of 40 microM could trigger the EoL-1 cells to undergo morphological differentiation into mature eosinophil-like cells. Using RT-PCR and flow cytometry, it was found that EGCG upregulated the gene and protein expression of two eosinophil-specific granule proteins, the major basic protein (MBP) and eosinophil peroxidase (EPO), in EoL-1 cells. Taken together, our findings suggest that EGCG can exhibit anti-leukemic activity on a human eosinophilic cell line EoL-1 by suppressing the proliferation and by inducing the differentiation of the leukemia cells.