We report that phytosphingosine, a sphingolipid found in many organisms and implicated in cellular signaling, promotes megakaryocytic differentiation of myeloid leukemia cells. Specifically, phytosphingosine induced several hallmark changes associated with megakaryopoiesis from K562 and HEL cells including cell cycle arrest, cell size increase and polyploidization. We also confirmed that cell type specific markers of megakaryocytes, CD41a and CD42b are induced by phytosphingosine. Phospholipids with highly similar structures were unable to induce similar changes, indicating that the activity of phytosphingosine is highly specific. Although phytosphingosine is known to activate p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-mediated apoptosis, the signaling mechanisms involved in megakaryopoiesis appear to be distinct. In sum, we present another model for dissecting molecular details of megakaryocytic differentiation which in large part remains obscure.