Erythroblasts isolated from the spleens of mice infected with the anemia-inducing strain of Friend virus (FVA cells) are erythropoietin (EP)-sensitive cells at the late colony forming unit-erythroid (CFU-E) and cluster forming unit stages of differentiation (Koury et al., J. Cell. Physiol. 121:526–532, 1984). We investigate here the EP requirements of FVA cells in vitro for viability, proliferation, and maturation. By delaying the addition of EP to FVA cell cultures or by withdrawing EP at early times of culture, the subsequent viability, cell numbers, and maturation were diminished. The longer the delay in EP addition or the earlier the EP withdrawal, the more diminished these parameters were when compared to cultures which contained EP throughout the 48 h of differentiation. FVA cells had a period of EP requirement in vitro that lasted for only 24 h or less after the initiation of culture. During these crucial first 24 h, EP induced an increase in the synthesis of all size classes of RNA. Protein synthesis was maintained at a stable level in cells cultured with EP, but it declined in cells cultured without it. In contrast, the synthesis rate of DNA and the content of DNA per cell were not affected by the presence of EP in the culture. However, FVA cells cultured without EP had progressive accumulation of small sized DNA due to breakage of higher molecular weight DNA. The rate of DNA breakdown was sufficient to prevent DNA accumulation and thus it probably plays a role in the abortion of cell proliferation. No such breakage was found in cells cultured with EP. Our results indicate that EP exerts an effect on FVA cells in culture which is reflected in their viability, cell number, and maturation. This effect is not mediated by a stimulation of the rate of DNA synthesis, but is accompanied by stimulation of overall RNA synthesis and maintenance of protein synthesis.