The cytoplasmic domain of the erythropoietin receptor (EpoR) contains a region, proximal to the transmembrane domain, that is essential for function and has homology with other members of the cytokine receptor family. To explore the functional significance of this region and to identify critical residues, we introduced several amino acid substitutions and examined their effects on erythropoietin-induced mitogenesis, tyrosine phosphorylation, and expression of immediate-early (c-fos, c-myc, and egr-1) and early (ornithine decarboxylase and T-cell receptor gamma) genes in interleukin-3-dependent cell lines. Amino acid substitution of W-282, which is strictly conserved at the middle portion of the homology region, completely abolished all the functions of the EpoR. Point mutation at L-306 or E-307, both of which are in a conserved LEVL motif, drastically impaired the function of the receptor in all assays. Other point mutations, introduced into less conserved amino acid residues, did not significantly impair the function of the receptor. These results demonstrate that conserved amino acid residues in this domain of the EpoR are required for mitogenesis, stimulation of tyrosine phosphorylation, and induction of immediate-early and early genes.