Human leukemia K562 cells can be induced to erythroid differentiation when treated with a variety of compounds, including hemin, cytosine arabinoside and 5-azacytidine. Following erythroid induction, K562 cells express at high level γ-globin and accumulate both Hb Portland and Hb Gower 1. In this paper we determined whether a combination treatment of K562 cells with suboptimal concentrations of cytosine arabinoside and retinoids lead to full expression of differentiated functions. Cell growth kinetics studies, intracellular detection of hemoglobin by benzidine staining and hemoglobin analysis by cellulose acetate were performed. The results obtained show that (a) retinoic acid and retinol are not able to induce differentiation of K562 cells and (b) cytosine arabinoside induces differentiation only when used at 100-300 nmol/l concentrations. In addition, our data demonstrate that erythroid differentiation of K562 occurs when 40 µmol/l of retinoic acid or retinol are added together with 75 nmol/l cytosine arabinoside.