In proliferating non-erythroid cells, the expression of transferrin receptors (TfR) is negatively regulated by the amount of intracellular iron. Fe-dependent regulation of TfR occurs post-transcriptionally and is mediated by iron-responsive elements (IRE) located in the 3' untranslated region of the TfR mRNA. IREs are recognized by a specific cytoplasmic binding protein (IRE-BP) that, in the absence of Fe, binds with high affinity to TfR mRNA, preventing its degradation. While TfR numbers are positively correlated with proliferation in non-erythroid cells, in hemoglobin-synthesizing cells, their numbers increase during differentiation and are, therefore, negatively correlated with proliferation. This suggests a distinct regulation of erythroid TfR expression and evidence, as follows, for this was found in the present study. (a) With nuclear run-on assays, our experiments show increased TfR mRNA transcription following induction of erythroid differentiation of murine erythroleukemia (MEL) with Me2SO. (b) Me2SO treatment of MEL cells does not increase IRE-BP activity which is, however, increased in uninduced MEL cells by Fe chelators. (c) Following induction of MEL cells, there is an increase in the stability of TfR mRNA, whose level is only slightly affected by iron excess. (d) Heme-synthesis inhibitors, such as succinylacetone and isonicotinic acid hydrazide, which inhibit numerous aspects of erythroid differentiation, also inhibit TfR mRNA expression in induced MEL cells. However, heme-synthesis inhibition does not lead to a decrease in TfR mRNA levels in uninduced MEL cells. Thus, these studies indicate that TfR gene expression is regulated differently in hemoglobin synthesizing as compared to uninduced MEL cells.