The regeneration of circulating red blood cells in response to anaemia associated with blood loss or haemolysis involves an increased rate of erythropoiesis and expansion of proerythroblasts, the bone marrow precursor cells that terminally differentiate into mature erythrocytes. This study investigated the mechanisms by which erythropoietin (Epo) and stem cell factor (Scf) modulate the expansion of proerythroblasts. Homogenous populations of primary human proerythroblasts were generated in liquid cultures of CD34(+) cells. In serum-free cultures, proerythroblasts failed to survive in the presence of Epo or Scf alone, but exhibited synergistic proliferation in response to combined Epo and Scf treatment, exhibiting one-log expansion in 5 d. Intracellular signal transduction in response to Epo and Scf revealed that tyrosine phosphorylation of signal transducers and activators of transcription (Stat) 5, a downstream target for the non-receptor tyrosine kinase, Janus kinase 2 (Jak2), was mediated by Epo but not Scf. The mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) extracellular regulated kinase (Erk) 1-2 were phosphorylated in response to either Epo or Scf. Phosphorylation of Akt, a signalling molecule downstream of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), was observed following Scf but not Epo treatment. To determine the contribution of specific signalling pathways to synergistic expansion of proerythroblasts in response to co-operative effects of Epo and Scf, cells were treated with kinase inhibitors targeting Jak2, PI3K and MAPK kinase. There was a significant, dose-dependent inhibition of proerythroblast expansion in response to all three kinase inhibitors. In conclusion, Epo- and Scf-mediated co-operative, synergistic expansion of primary erythroid precursors requires selective activation of multiple signalling pathways, including the Jak-Stat, PI3K and MAPK pathways.