Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) is a nuclear enzyme which has been shown to play a role in the differentiation of haematopoietic cells. We report here that neutrophils are the first nucleated mammalian cell type demonstrated to be devoid of immunoreactive PARP. Both NB4 acute promyelocytic leukaemia and HL-60 (acute myelocytic leukaemia) cells were differentiated into non-malignant neutrophils with all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA). Western blot analysis demonstrated that ATRA had no effect on PARP expression in HL-60 cells. However, PARP was completely down-regulated in NB4 cells within 36 h of treatment initiation. This decrease in PARP polypeptide coincided with growth arrest and preceded the appearance of neutrophilic differentiation features. NB4 cells require a combination of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25-D3) and phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) to differentiate completely into monocyte/macrophages, whereas HL-60 cells can be made to differentiate by combined or single agents. PARP expression was up-regulated 90-fold when NB4 cells were treated with PMA and 1,25-D3 together, and this increase accompanied expression of the monocyte/macrophage phenotype. Only modest changes in PARP expression were observed when each agent was used alone in NB4 cells or when HL-60 cells were differentiated along the monocyte/macrophage pathway. In addition, PARP activity was modulated in a pattern similar to protein levels when NB4 cells were induced to differentiate along the neutrophilic and monocyte/macrophage pathways. This suggests that the activity of PARP may be controlled through regulation of protein levels during NB4 cell differentiation. We conclude that PARP levels are dramatically modulated during monocyte/macrophage and neutrophilic differentiation. On the basis of the tremendous changes in PARP polypeptide and total activity during myeloid differentiation, we propose that modulation of PARP gene expression is required for cellular maturation in both lineages.