Cytochemical investigation of leukemic promyelocytes from 25 cases of acute promyelocytic leukemia (M3) disclosed two major cellular differentiation categories: (1) the pure neutrophilic (N) type (16 cases) with strong myeloperoxidase (MPO) and naphthol-ASD chloroacetate esterase (Es-chl), but lacking the monocytic enzyme NaF-sensitive alpha- naphthyl butyrate esterase (Es-b), and (2) the mixed neutrophilic/monocytoid (N/M) type (seven cases) with strong Es-b as well as strong MPO, all cases exhibiting Es-dual (Es-b + Es-chl) positive cells. Two more cases with unusual phenotypes were noted: one with intense lysozyme activity but without Es-b and the other with toluidine blue-methachromasia and negative MPO. Promyelocytes from the control group, consisting of nine cases of t(8;21) M2 AML and ten cases with normal bone marrow, lacked such cytochemical heterogeneity. HL-60, an M3 cell line that can be induced to differentiate toward monocytic lineage in vitro, was almost negative for Es-b in the uninduced condition. Cytogenetically, eight cases of N type and five of N/M type had the t(15;17) abnormality. Thus at least two differentiation patterns were observed in M3 leukemia with fidelity (N type) and infidelity (N/M type) for normal granulocytic differentiation. In this series, there was no statistically significant difference in clinical features (remission rate and survival) between the two types. Our study suggests that the development of M3 leukemia is not exclusively restricted to the neutrophilic pathway, but more heterogeneously related to myelomonocytic differentiation.