Cytokine receptors have been shown in cell culture systems to use phosphotyrosine residues as docking sites for certain signal transduction intermediates. Studies using various cellular backgrounds have yielded conflicting information about the importance of such residues. The present studies were undertaken to determine whether or not tyrosine residues within the erythropoietin receptor (EPOR) are essential for biologic activity during hematopoiesis in vivo. A variant of the EPOR was constructed that contains both a substitution (R129C) causing constitutive receptor activation as well as replacement of all eight cytoplasmic tyrosines by phenylalanines (cEPORYF). A comparison between animals exposed to recombinant retroviruses expressing cEPOR and cEPORYF showed that efficient red blood cell (RBC) development in vivo is dependent on the presence of tyrosine residues in the cytoplasmic domain of the EPOR. In addition, an inefficient EPOR tyrosine independent pathway supporting RBC development was detected. Tyrosine add- back mutants showed that multiple individual tyrosines have the capacity to restore full erythropoietic potential to the EPOR as determined in whole animals. The analysis of primary erythroid progenitors transduced with the various cEPOR tyrosine mutants and tyrosine add-backs showed that only tyrosine 343 (Y1) and tyrosine 479 (Y8) were capable of supporting immature burst-forming unit-erythroid progenitor development. Thus, this receptor is characterized by striking functional redundancy of tyrosines in a biologically relevant context. However, selective tyrosine residues may be uniquely important for early signals supporting erythroid development.