The dynamics of gene expression during terminal erythroid differentiation have been examined in three murine models; the erythroleukaemia cell line HCD-57 and splenic erythroblasts isolated from mice treated with either the anaemia-inducing strain of Friend virus (FVA cells) or the haemolytic agent phenylhydrazine (PHZ cells). In response to erythropoietin (EPO) and haemin, HCD-57 cells proliferated and synthesized haemoglobin, but failed to complete terminal differentiation as indicated by lack of change in both gene expression and morphological appearance. In contrast, EPO-induced terminal differentiation in FVA and PHZ cells in vitro was accompanied by increases in haemoglobin positivity, morphological maturation and a shared pattern of gene expression. EPO receptor (EPO-R) mRNA levels peaked before globin gene expression which was maximal at 24 h. Peak GATA-1 and EKLF mRNA levels also preceded the globin gene peak, but the highest NF-E2 levels coincided with maximal globin levels, suggesting a role for NF-E2 in the maintenance, rather than the initiation of globin gene expression. Peak expression of δ-aminolaevulinic acid synthase (ALAS) coincided with peak globin expression. FVA and PHZ cells represent more effective models than the HCD-57 cell line for the investigation of erythroid gene expression during EPO-regulated terminal erythropoiesis.