Monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) to myeloid differentiation antigens have a potential use in purging bone marrow of leukemia cells in autologous bone marrow transplantation (ABMT) therapy for acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Because the efficiency of purging by MoAb and complement (C) is important to the success of ABMT, we have designed an assay to determine optimal conditions for leukemia cell lysis. In order to mimic the conditions of remission bone marrow, normal buffy coat cells were mixed with cells from the HL-60 promyelocytic leukemia cell line at a concentration that approximated the normal-leukemia cell ratio found in remission marrow. The cell mixture was treated at variable times and temperatures in the presence of C and PM-81, an IgM MoAb that reacts with both normal granulocytes and monocytes as well as with HL-60 cells. PM-81 binds to the majority of cells from 90% of patients with AML yet does not react significantly with normal stem cell populations. Because of the potential use of PM-81 in ABMT, it seemed especially important to show that the antibody was capable of mediating cytotoxicity of HL-60 cells in the presence of an excess of antigen-positive cells. A clonogenic assay that permitted the growth of HL-60 cell colonies but not normal progenitor cells in methylcellulose cultures was used to measure the efficiency of HL-60 cell lysis. We found that under certain conditions, PM-81 was capable of removing the small percentage of HL-60 clonogenic cells admixed with normal buffy coat cells. This information was useful for determining the optimal conditions for purging bone marrow of leukemia cells for ABMT.