111In-labeled granulocytes were used to study the effects of histocompatibility factors on the migration of transfused granulocytes to infected sites. Fourteen alloimmunized and 20 nonalloimmunized patients received approximately 10(8) 111In-labeled granulocytes from ABO-compatible, non-HLA-matched donors, and scans were performed over known infected sites. All 14 alloimmunized patients had lymphocytotoxic antibody (LCTAb) and required HLA-matched platelet transfusions. Of the nonalloimmunized patients, 20/20 had positive scans at sites of infection. None of the 20 had LCTAb, 0/17 had a positive lymphocytotoxic crossmatch (LCTXM) with the donor, and 3/18 had a positive leukoagglutinin crossmatch (LAXM). Thus, histocompatibility testing was not found to be important in nonalloimmunized patients. In contrast, only 3/14 alloimmunized patients had positive scans at sites of infection (p = 0.00001 compared to nonalloimmunized patients). One of 3 had a positive LCTXM and 2/3 had a positive LAXM. Of the alloimmunized patients, 10/11 with negative scans had a positive LCTXM and 8/11 had a positive LAXM. Labeled granulocytes failed to reach sites of infection in 11/14 (78%) alloimmunized patients, demonstrating that histocompatibility factors can be of major importance in affecting the outcome of granulocyte transfusions. Granulocytes from random donors are unlikely to be effective in alloimmunized patients. The lack of an adequate crossmatching technique is a major problem limiting the ability to provide granulocyte transfusions for alloimmunized patients.