Previous studies have established that protein kinase C-zeta (PKC-zeta) is critical for neuronal cell differentiation. However, the role of PKC-zeta in haematopoietic cell differentiation is less clear. In this study, we have investigated the influence of PKC-zeta overexpression on the phenotype of the human monocytic U937 leukaemic cells. In two PKC-zeta-overexpressing clones (U937 zetaJ and U937 zetaB), PKC-zeta expression levels and activity were three to fourfold higher, and the enzyme accumulated both in the cytoplasm and in the nucleus compared with U937 control cells. PKC-zeta-overexpressing U937 cells exhibited an erythroid phenotype characterized by high levels of glycophorin A, cell haemoglobinization, increased GATA-1 transcripts and protein expression, compared with controls. Immunoprecipitation studies revealed that GATA-1 protein was constitutively phosphorylated in PKC-zeta-overexpressing cells. Moreover, GATA-1 did not interact with PKC-zeta but interacted with ERK1, which was constitutively activated and accumulated in the nucleus of U937 zetaJ. However, ERK1 phosphorylation inhibition by PD098059 did not influence either GATA-1 phosphorylation or GATA-1/ERK1 interaction. Collectively, these results suggest a model in which PKC-zeta induces MEK-dependent ERK1 activation, ERK1 translocation to the nucleus, GATA-1/ERK1 interaction and ERK1-independent GATA-1 phosphorylation resulting in GATA-1 accumulation. To conclude, this study provides evidence for the role of PKC-zeta in erythroid gene regulation.