Peripheral blood specimens were obtained from 22 patients with Philadelphia chromosome (Ph1) positive chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) (16 in chronic phase, 2 in an accelerated phase, and 4 in blast crisis). Studies were performed to determine the frequency of the presence of the Ph1 chromosome in cells of lymphoid lineages. Rosetted (E+) lymphocytes (T lymphocytes) from nine patients in chronic phase and one patient in blast crisis were stimulated with T cell growth factor interleukin 2 (IL-2) and/or phytohemagglutinin (PHA). All ten patients had sufficient T lymphocyte metaphases for analysis and of a total of 461 metaphases examined, only one contained the Ph1 chromosome. Nucleated cells of density less than 1.077 g/mL were infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Following infection, cell lines were established from individual colonies attached to egg albumin- coated Lab-Tek slide chambers (clonal cell lines) or from suspension culture in 96-well tissue culture cluster dishes (nonclonal cell lines). Cell surface and intracellular marker analysis confirmed the B lymphocyte phenotype of all the cell lines examined. B lymphoblastoid cell lines were established from 16 of the 22 patients. All lines from 12 patients were Ph1-negative. From two chronic phase patients, both Ph1-positive and Ph1-negative lines were established. From one patient in an accelerated phase, only Ph1-positive lines were established. From another patient in blast crisis (of myeloblastic phenotype), only Ph1- positive lines were established initially; however, five months later, after the patient had been treated with mitoxantrone, only Ph1-negative lines were derived from this patient. Based on these results, it appears that most B cells and mature T cells in most CML patients are Ph1-negative, but that about 25% of patients have predominantly Ph1- positive B cells or a mixture of Ph1-positive and Ph1-negative B cells that are capable of growing as established cell lines after transformation with EBV.