In the hematopoietic lineage, the transcription factors GATA-1 and GATA-2 show restricted and largely overlapping expression profiles, but GATA-2 is uniquely expressed in early hematopoietic progenitors. GATA-3 is found exclusively in T cells of hematopoietic lineage. To clarify whether these expression profiles are preserved or changed during the development of malignancies, we analyzed the expression of GATA factors in the blasts from leukemic children. A total of 18 myelogenous leukemia and 24 lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cases were investigated. In the majority of the former cases, GATA-2 mRNA expression and the expression of CD34 and c-kit antigens on leukemic cells were demonstrated. In contrast, GATA-2 mRNA and c-kit antigen could not be detected in CD34-positive cells from ALL patients. GATA-3 mRNA was expressed in all T-ALL cases, but not in any precursor B-ALL. These findings suggest that down-regulation of GATA-2 and expression of GATA-3 are important events for the commitment of cells to lymphoid and T cell lineage, respectively. The expression profiles of GATA factors in leukemic cells are generally consistent with those in their normal counterparts, and thus provide a useful tool to determine the lineage commitment of unclassified leukemia.