The matrix protein thrombospondin-4 has an acidic amphipathic C-terminal peptide (C21) which stimulates erythroid cell proliferation. Here we show that C21 stimulates red cell formation in anemic mice in vivo. In vitro experiments indicated that the peptide-mediated increase of erythroid colony formation in cultures of human CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells was possible only under continuous presence of erythropoietin. In the absence of this cytokine, C21 stimulated exclusively myeloid colony formation. Therefore, the peptide is not a specific erythroid differentiation factor. In fact, it is mitogenic in non-erythroid cells, such as skin fibroblasts and kidney epithelial cells. In erythroleukemic TF-1 cells, it actually decreased the production of the erythroid differentiation marker glycophorin A. C21-affinity chromatography revealed regulator of differentiation 1 (ROD1) as a major C21-binding protein. ROD1 is the hematopoietic cell paralog of polypyrimidine tract binding proteins (PTBs), RNA splice regulators which regulate differentiation by repressing tissue-specific exons. ROD1 binding to C21 was strongly inhibited by synthetic RNAs in the order poly A > poly U > poly G = poly C and was weakly inhibited by a synthetic phosphorylated peptide mimicking the C-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II. Cellular overexpression or knockdown experiments of ROD1 suggest a role for this protein in the mitogenic activity of C21. Since the nuclear proteins ROD1 and PTBs regulate differentiation at a posttranscriptional level and there is a fast nuclear uptake of C21, we put forward the idea that the peptide is internalized, goes to the nucleus and maintains cells in a proliferative state by supporting ROD1-mediated inhibition of differentiation.