We generated a panel of monoclonal antibodies against the extracellular domain of the Tie receptor tyrosine kinase and studied its expression in human haemopoietic and tumour cell lines and in samples from leukaemia patients. Most of the erythroblastic/megakaryoblastic (6/8), 2/7 myeloid and 3/6 B-lymphoblastic leukaemia cell lines were Tie-positive. The erythroblastic/megakaryoblastic leukaemia cell lines also expressed the related Tie-2/Tek gene and, surprisingly, its recently cloned ligand gene angiopoietin-1, which was located in chromosome 8q23.1. In addition, 16% of freshly isolated leukaemia samples were Tie positive. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were Tie negative, but a few Tie positive cells were found in immunoperoxidase staining of mobilized peripheral blood stem cells. Long-term culture of isolated umbilical cord blood CD34+ Tie+ and CD34+ Tie- cells indicated that the Tie+ fraction contained a slightly higher frequency of cobblestone area forming cells (CAFC). Thus, Tie is expressed on haemopoietic progenitor cells and some leukaemic blasts. The coexpression of Tie-2 and angiopoietin-1 in megakaryoblastic leukaemia cell lines suggests the existence of an autocrine ligand/receptor signalling loop in these cells.