The role of miRNAs in regulating megakaryocyte differentiation was examined using bipotent K562 human leukemia cells. miR-34a is strongly up-regulated during phorbol ester-induced megakaryocyte differentiation, but not during hemin-induced erythrocyte differentiation. Enforced expression of miR-34a in K562 cells inhibits cell proliferation, induces cell-cycle arrest in G(1) phase, and promotes megakaryocyte differentiation as measured by CD41 induction. miR-34a expression is also up-regulated during thrombopoietin-induced differentiation of CD34(+) hematopoietic precursors, and its enforced expression in these cells significantly increases the number of megakaryocyte colonies. miR-34a directly regulates expression of MYB, facilitating megakaryocyte differentiation, and of CDK4 and CDK6, to inhibit the G(1)/S transition. However, these miR-34a target genes are down-regulated rapidly after inducing megakaryocyte differentiation before miR-34a is induced. This suggests that miR-34a is not responsible for the initial down-regulation but may contribute to maintaining their suppression later on. Previous studies have implicated miR-34a as a tumor suppressor gene whose transcription is activated by p53. However, in p53-null K562 cells, phorbol esters induce miR-34a expression independently of p53 by activating an alternative phorbol ester-responsive promoter to produce a longer pri-miR-34a transcript.