Oncostatin M is a cytokine that acts as a growth regulator on a wide variety of cells and has diverse biological activities including acute phase protein induction, LDL receptor up-regulation and cell-specific gene expression. In order to gather information about the Onc M structure, we established a protocol for large scale production and single step purification of this functional cytokine from bacterial cells. The cDNA of human Onc M was cloned by RT-PCR from total RNA of PMA induced U937 cells. After the addition of a six histidine tag at the N-terminus, the coding region of mature Onc M was cloned in the pT7.7 expression vector. Histidine tagged Onc M was overexpressed in bacterial cells and purified to homogeneity in one step on a metal chelating column. We found that recombinant 6xHis-OncM remains fully active in a growth inhibition assay. Structural characterization of the purified protein was performed by electrospray mass spectrometry, automated Edman degradation and peptide mapping by high-pressure liquid chromatography/fast-atom-bombardment mass spectrometry. Thermal and pH stability dependence of Onc M was assessed by circular dichroism spectroscopy; the helical content is about 50%, in agreement with the four helix bundle fold postulated for cytokines that bind haematopoietic receptors of type I.