Thrombopoietin (TPO) is one of the most promising stimulants for ex vivo expansion of haematopoietic stem cells. Previously, we have found that TPO induces a characteristic pattern of apoptosis during ex vivo expansion of human cord blood (CB) CD34+ cells and that the TPO-induced apoptotic cells belong to megakaryocyte (MK) lineage. In this study, we have examined the maturation of MK and platelet production in association with the TPO-induced apoptosis. CD34+ cells, purified from human CB, were expanded in serum-free conditions stimulated with TPO. Apoptosis was confirmed by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate-biotin nick end labelling (TUNEL) assay and electron microscopy (EM). Simultaneous measurement of DNA content and immunophenotyping revealed that the cells with higher DNA content (>8 N) constituted less than 5% of the CD41+ fractions until day 14, implying premature apoptosis of MKs before full polyploidization. Nevertheless, EM observation showed not only platelet territories but also newly produced platelets in which granules and microfilaments could be identified. Furthermore, flow cytometry demonstrated that the platelet fraction expressed P-selectin and an activation motif on GPIIb/IIIa recognized by monoclonal antibody PAC-1 upon stimulation with adenosine diphosphate (ADP). In addition, periodic acid-Schiff (PAS)-positive materials and nonspecific esterase activities could be demonstrated. Therefore, it is suggested that platelet production and the accompanying processes, rather than apoptosis only, be hastened during the ex vivo expansion of CB CD34+ cells when using TPO.