Multiple members of the A, B, and C clusters of Hox genes are expressed in hematopoietic cells. Several of these Hox genes have been found to display distinctive expression patterns, with genes located at the 3' side of the clusters being expressed at their highest levels in the most primitive subpopulation of human CD34+ bone marrow cells and genes located at the 5' end having a broader range of expression, with downregulation at later stages of hematopoietic differentiation. To explore if these patterns reflect different functional activities, we have retrovirally engineered the overexpression of a 5'-located gene, HOXA10, in murine bone marrow cells and demonstrate effects strikingly different from those induced by overexpression of a 3'-located gene, HOXB4. In contrast to HOXB4, which causes selective expansion of primitive hematopoietic cells without altering their differentiation, overexpression of HOXA10 profoundly perturbed myeloid and B- lymphoid differentiation. The bone marrow of mice reconstituted with HOXA10- transduced bone marrow cells contained in high frequency a unique progenitor cell with megakaryocytic colony-forming ability and was virtually devoid of unilineage macrophage and pre-B-lymphoid progenitor cells derived from the transduced cells. Moreover, and again in contrast to HOXB4, a significant proportion of HOXA10 mice developed a transplantable acute myeloid leukemia with a latency of 19 to 50 weeks. These results thus add to recognition of Hox genes as important regulators of hematopoiesis and provide important new evidence of Hox gene-specific functions that may correlate with their normal expression pattern.