The inappropriate expression of c-myc in cells deprived of growth factors has recently been implicated in the activation of programmed cell death (apoptosis). The studies described here examine the ability of interleukin-3 (IL-3) or erythropoietin (Epo) to suppress apoptosis that occurs in association with enforced myc expression during cell cycle arrest of a murine IL-3-dependent myeloid progenitor cell line, 32D. G1 arrest was observed when culturing 32D cells to high density in medium supplemented with IL-3, or at subconfluent densities in medium supplemented with Epo. Under both conditions, endogenous c-myc expression was downregulated and viability was maintained. In clones of cells in which c-myc is constitutively expressed from a retroviral vector, enforced c-myc expression was associated with the activation of apoptosis at high cell densities. Similarly, enforced c-myc expression was deleterious to cell survival when these cells were cultured in Epo, as apoptosis was evident within 6 hours. The results support the concept that inappropriate c-myc expression activates apoptosis and that neither IL-3 nor Epo can suppress this program under these conditions.