The spi-1 proto-oncogene encodes the transcription factor PU.1 which is normally expressed in all hematopoietic cell lineages except in T cell lines. During the murine acute erythroleukemia induced by the Friend retrovirus, SFFV, spi-1 deregulation by insertional mutagenesis results in the overexpression of Spi-1/PU.1 in the malignant proerythroblastic cell. To assess the Spi-1 role in the proliferation and the differentiation arrest of the Friend tumor cells we inhibited spi-1 gene expression in two Friend cell lines by using antisense oligodeoxyribonucleotides. Proliferation and cloning efficiency of both cell lines were significantly inhibited by spi1 antisense. This antiproliferative effect was not related to an apparent maturation of erythroleukemic cells demonstrating that repression of spi-1 expression is not sufficient per se to restore the ability of the proerythroblastic cells to spontaneously differentiate in mature erythroblasts. These data suggest that the spi-1 gene would be involved in the Friend leukemic process by promoting the proerythroblast to proliferate.