The transcription factor IRF-1 has been shown to function as a tumor suppressor. Here we report that a significant proportion of the IRF-1 mRNA detected in normal human hematopoietic cells and cultured cell lines lacks exon 2 (containing the AUG initiation codon) and 3 as a result of exon skipping. Surprisingly, when we examined the bone marrow and peripheral mononuclear cells from patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) or leukemia secondary to MDS, we could still detect the exon-skipped form but little or none of the intact IRF-1 mRNA. This appears to be the result of accelerated exon skipping since we could find no mutations within the exons and splicing junctions from these patients. The exon-skipped form of IRF-1 lacking exons 2 and 3 displayed neither DNA binding nor tumor suppressive activities. Thus this accelerated exon skipping may cause the inactivation of IRF-1 and thereby contribute to the development of human hematopoietic malignancies.