FLT3/FLK2 is a receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) which is thought to play an important role in early stages of hematopoiesis. Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against the extracellular domain of human FLT3 were generated to study the cell surface expression of this class III RTK on normal bone marrow cells and on leukemic blasts from patients with acute leukemias. Functional analysis of five mAbs (SF1 series) revealed that all of them can mimic to variable extents the activity of the FLT3 ligand (FL) upon receptor activation and modulation, while only one mAb weakly inhibited ligand binding. Using flow cytometry, we detected surface expression of FLT3 on cell lines of the myeloid (4/8) and B lymphoid (7/10) lineages. On normal human bone marrow cells, the expression of FLT3 is restricted, in agreement with a presumed function of this receptor at the level of the stem cells and early committed progenitors. Expression of FLT3 was found on a fraction of CD34-positive and CD34-negative cells. Three-color analysis further revealed that most of the CD34 FLT3+ cells coexpress CD117 (KIT) at a high level. Finally, FLT3 is expressed on leukemic blasts of 18/22 acute myeloid leukemias (AML) and 3/5 acute lymphoid leukemias (ALL) of the B lineage, providing a possible application in diagnosis and therapy of these diseases.