Haematopoiesis is controlled by a number of growth factors and cytokines, a number of which act through binding to high-affinity receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). Approximately 20 different RTK classes have been identified, all of which share a similar structure that includes a ligand binding extracellular domain, a single transmembrane domain and an intracellular tyrosine kinase domain. Recent studies have linked an increasing number of mutations in the RTKs to the pathogenesis of both acute and chronic leukaemia. For example, the FLT3 receptor, a RTK class III, is the most commonly mutated gene in acute myeloid leukaemia, while c-kit mutations are strongly linked to the development of mast cell malignancy. This review summarizes the RTK classes that are known to be expressed on normal haematopoietic tissue and highlights the many 'gain-of-function' mutations involved in leukaemogenesis. It is to be hoped that this knowledge will provide important new insights for targeted therapy in leukaemia.