Angiotensin II exerts a mitogenic effect in several in vitro models, but a direct effect on erythroid progenitors has not been documented. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and losartan, an angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1) antagonist, ameliorate posttransplant erythrocytosis, without altering serum erythropoietin levels. We studied erythroid differentiation and the effect of angiotensin II on proliferation of erythroid progenitors by culturing CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells in liquid serum-free medium favoring growth of erythroid precursors. Aliquots of cells were collected every third day, and were used for RNA preparation. AT1 mRNA was detected after 6 d. In these same samples, erythroid-specific mRNA (erythropoietin receptor) was also detected. AT1 protein was detected in 7- d-old burst-forming units-erythroid colonies by Western blotting. The CD34+ cell liquid cultures were used to incubate erythroid precursors with angiotensin II from days 6-9. After incubation, cells were transferred to semisolid medium and cultured with erythropoietin. Angiotensin II increased proliferation of early erythroid progenitors, defined as increased numbers of burst-forming units-erythroid colonies. Losartan completely abolished this stimulatory effect of angiotensin II. Moreover, we observed increased numbers of erythroid progenitors in the peripheral blood of posttransplant erythrocytosis patients. Thus, activation of AT1 with angiotensin II enhances erythropoietin-stimulated erythroid proliferation in vitro. A putative defect in the angiotensin II/AT1 pathway may contribute to the pathogenesis of posttransplant erythrocytosis.