Mpl ligand is a recently cloned haemopoietic growth factor that stimulates megakaryopoiesis in vitro and in vivo. We describe the in vitro effect of a truncated form of Mpl ligand, recombinant human megakaryocyte growth and development factor (rHuMGDF), on megakaryopoiesis in bone marrow from normal subjects and patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). We used both semi-solid and suspension culture techniques to assess the effect of pegylated (PEG) rHuMGDF on megakaryocyte colony growth (CFU-Mk) and on the production of CD61+ cells in 7d suspension cultures. PEG rHuMGDF increased CFU-Mk growth and CD61+ cell production in a dose-dependent fashion in all normal marrows tested. Normal CFU-Mk growth was increased threefold with the addition of 10 ng/ml PEG rHuMGDF to cultures and CD61+ cells were increased 8-10-fold by the same dose. Although increased CFU-Mk growth was only seen in 1/10 AML and 6/16 MDS marrows, CD61+ cell numbers in suspension culture were increased in 9/13 AML and 12/15 MDS samples, responses ranged from very limited to normal magnitude. There was no correlation between platelet count and CFU-Mk number, CD61+ cell number or response to PEG rHuMGDF. We did not find any increased CFU-GM colony or cluster growth in response to PEG rHuMGDF and the CD61+ cells produced in suspension culture had features of megakaryocytic differentiation. These data suggest that PEG rHuMGDF can enhance megakaryocyte proliferation in some patients with MDS and AML, and may have a role in the treatment of thrombocytopenia in these patients.