Regulators that play an important role in the differentiation and development of plants or invertebrates may also affect the differentiation of human leukaemia cells through a common signal transduction system, and might be clinically useful for treating acute myeloid leukaemia. Cotylenin A has been isolated as a plant growth regulator. We examined the effects of cotylenin A on the differentiation of several myelogenous leukaemia cells, and found that cotylenin A is a potent and novel inducer of the monocytic differentiation of human myeloid leukaemia cells. Cotylenin A induced the functional and morphological differentiation of myeloblastic and promyelocytic leukaemia cells, but did not effectively induce the differentiation of monocytoid leukaemia cells. Cotylenin A-induced differentiation was not affected by several inhibitors of signal transduction, suggesting that this inducer exhibits a unique mode of action.