A point mutation at codon 129 of the murine erythropoietin receptor (cEpoR) results in constitutive activation. We have generated a recombinant spleen focus-forming retrovirus in which the env gene is replaced by the cEpoR cDNA. Mice infected with this virus (but not by viruses expressing the wild-type EpoR) develop erythrocytosis and splenomegaly. From the spleen of infected animals we have isolated clonal, growth factor-independent, proerythroblast cell lines that express cEpoR, do not express the putative oncogene spi-1, and have rearranged and inactivated expression of the p53 suppressor oncogene. These cells induce erythroleukemia upon injection into mice. This demonstrates that oncogenic point mutations exist in a member of the cytokine receptor superfamily. The activated erythropoietin receptor does not transform cultured fibroblasts, suggesting why oncogenic mutations in other members of this receptor superfamily have not been detected.