Thrombopoietin (TPO), the c-Mpl ligand, is produced constitutively in liver and other organs, circulates in the bloodstream, and is delivered to bone marrow, where it stimulates the early development of multiple hematopoietic lineages and megakaryocytopoiesis. The concentration of TPO in blood is regulated by c-Mpl mass on platelets and megakaryocytes. In addition to regulation by the number of TPO molecules, including the possible modulation of TPO mRNA abundance in bone marrow, megakaryocytopoiesis and platelet production may be regulated as a result of modulation of TPO activity by proteolytic processing that generates truncated forms of the molecule. Characterization of TPO partially purified from human plasma, however, revealed that the full-length molecule was the predominant form in the blood of both normal individuals and thrombocytopenic patients, although small amounts of truncated species were detected. Thus, truncation of TPO, at least that in the circulation examined, does not appear to contribute to the direct regulation of platelet production in response to increased demand. Given that native TPO isolated from the plasma of thrombocytopenic animals comprises truncated forms, the truncation of TPO is likely of physiological importance in the life history of this molecule.