The earliest known ionic event during Friend murine erythroleukemic (MEL) cell differentiation along the erythroid pathway is a 45% drop in intracellular sodium concentration ([Na+]i) due to a decrease in Na+ influx (Lannigan, D. A., and Knauf, P. A. (1985) J. Biol. Chem. 260, 7322-7324). We have analyzed the mechanism of the decreased Na+ influx. The Na+ influx in uninduced cells was insensitive to dimethylamiloride, bumetanide, and diisothiocyanostilbene disulfonate. The intracellular pH (pHi) did not change up to 15 h after dimethyl sulfoxide induction, at which time Na+ influx has decreased by approximately 40%; thus, the decrease in Na+ influx is not coupled to a change in pHi. A substantial amount of the decrease in Na+ influx seems to result from a drop in amino acid-dependent Na+ transport. This reduction in amino acid-dependent Na+ influx reflects a decrease in net Na+ influx rather than solely in Na+/Na+ exchange and can account for an appreciable portion of the reduction in [Na+]i seen during differentiation. The drop in amino acid-dependent Na+ influx could not be explained by membrane depolarization but was correlated with a decrease in protein synthesis. Inhibition of protein synthesis in uninduced cells by cycloheximide also caused a decrease in Na+ influx. We conclude that during differentiation the reduction in protein synthesis decreases amino acid-dependent Na+ influx which in turn causes a drop in [Na+]i leading to a reduction in the Na+/K+ pump rate.