The c-, L-, and N-Myc nuclear phosphoproteins share several highly conserved regions that partially overlap putative functional domains of the c-Myc protein. All three myc oncogenes can cooperate with an activated ras gene to transform primary rat embryo cells (REC), and deregulated expression of c- and L-myc can block differentiation of murine erythroleukemia (MEL) cells. In the present study, we demonstrate that N-myc also can block MEL cell differentiation, and we identify regions within the c-Myc protein that are necessary for inhibition of MEL differentiation. C19 MEL cells were transfected with six human c-myc genes which were partially deleted in different areas of the coding region. Four of the genes lack sequences that overlap either the putative transcriptional activation domain, the helix-loop-helix motif, or the leucine zipper motif and were previously shown to have lost REC cotransforming activity (J. Stone, T. DeLange, G. Ramsay, E. Jakobovitz, J.M. Bishop, H. Varmus, and W. Lee, Mol. Cell. Biol., 7: 1697-1709, 1987). In this study, we demonstrate that they also fail to inhibit N,N'-hexamethylene-bis-acetamide-induced differentiation of MEL cells. In contrast, two partially deleted c-myc genes, one lacking a short NH2-terminal region and the other lacking 118 amino acids at the center of the coding region, which were fully active in REC cotransformation, also exhibited full activity associated with the former and only partial activity with the latter in blocking MEL differentiation. We conclude that the mutated genes tested in this study behave similarly in inhibition of MEL cell differentiation and in REC cotransformation.