The Philadelphia translocation commonly observed in chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) and a proportion of cases of acute leukaemia results in the creation of a chimeric fusion protein, BCR-ABL. The fusion protein exhibits an elevated tyrosine kinase activity as compared to normal ABL. Using a temperature sensitive mutant of p210 BCR-ABL (ts-p210) we find that the primary effect of BCR-ABL expression in an IL-3 dependent cell line is to prolong survival following growth factor withdrawal; only a small proportion of cells remain viable and rapidly evolve to complete growth factor independence. During passage in the presence of IL-3 at the temperature permissive for kinase activity, ts-p210 expressing cultures become dominated by completely growth factor independent cells within 10-30 days. There is also a significant difference between BCR-ABL and IL-3 mediated signalling with respect to the MAP kinase pathway; in contrast to IL-3 stimulation or v-ABL expression, BCR-ABL does not signal ERK 2 (MAP 2 kinase) activation, underlining the apparent inability of BCR-ABL to deliver an immediate proliferative signal in Ba/F3 cells. Our data suggest that growth factor independence does not simply reflect the convergence of BCR-ABL and IL-3 mediated signalling pathways and its development, at least in Ba/F3 cells, requires prolonged exposure to BCR-ABL kinase activity. We suggest that the myeloid expansion characteristic of CML may result from the prolongation of survival of myeloid progenitor cells under conditions of limiting growth factor rather than their uncontrolled proliferation.