The glycoprotein hormone Erythropoietin (EPO) stimulates red cell production and maturation. EPO is produced by the kidneys and the fetal liver in response to hypoxia (HOX). Recently, EPO expression has also been observed in the central nervous system where it may be neuroprotective. It remained unclear, however, whether EPO is expressed in the peripheral nervous system and, if so, whether a neuronal phenotype is required for its regulation. Herein, we report that EPO expression was induced by HOX and a HOX mimetic in two cell lines derived from neuroblastoma (NB), a tumor of the peripheral nervous system. Both cell lines with inducible EPO expression, SH-SY5Y and Kelly cells, expressed typical neuronal markers like neuropeptide Y (NPY), growth-associated protein-43 (GAP-43), and neuron-specific enolase (ENO). NB cells with a more epithelial phenotype like SH-SHEP and LAN-5 did not show HOX inducible EPO gene regulation. Still, oxygen sensing and up-regulation of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) were intact in all cell lines. We found that CpG methylation of the HIF binding site (HBS) in the EPO gene 3′ enhancer was only present in the SH-SHEP and LAN-5 cells but not in SH-SY5Y and Kelly cells with regulated EPO expression. The addition of recombinant EPO to all NB cells, both under normoxic and hypoxic conditions, had no effect on cell proliferation. We conclude that the ability to respond to HOX with an increase in EPO expression in human NB may depend on CpG methylation and the differentiation status of these embryonic tumor cells but does not affect the proliferative characteristics of the cells. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.