The Axl receptor tyrosine kinase was identified as a protein encoded by a transforming gene from primary human myeloid leukaemia cells by DNA-mediated transformation of NIH 3T3 cells. Axl is the founding member of a family of related receptors that includes Eyk, encoded by a chicken proto-oncogene originally described as a retroviral transforming gene, and c-Mer, encoded by a human proto-oncogene expressed in neoplastic B- and T-cell lines. The transforming activity of Axl demonstrates that the receptor can drive cellular proliferation. The function of Axl in non-transformed cells and tissues is unknown, but may involve the stimulation of cell proliferation in response to an appropriate signal, namely a ligand that activates the receptor. We report here the purification of an Axl stimulatory factor, and its identification as the product of growth-arrest-specific gene 6 (ref. 6). This is, to our knowledge, the first description of a ligand for the Axl family of receptors.