The frequency and clinical significance of acute leukemia displaying both lymphoid and myeloid characteristics was determined in 123 consecutive children using a panel of lineage-associated markers. The leukemic blasts from 18 of 95 children (19%) with the diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) by standard diagnostic criteria expressed myeloid-associated cell surface antigens. Despite immunological evidence of lymphoid differentiation (17 CALLA + and one T cell-associated antigen +) and findings of immunoglobulin gene rearrangement, blasts from these patients reacted with one to five monoclonal antibodies identifying myeloid-associated cell surface antigens (My-1, MCS.2, Mo1, SJ-D1, or 5F1). Dual staining with microsphere-conjugated antibodies and analysis by flow cytometry confirmed that some blasts were simultaneously expressing lymphoid- and myeloid-associated antigens. Conversely, blasts from seven of 28 patients (25%) with acute nonlymphocytic leukemia (ANLL), diagnosed by otherwise standard morphological and cytochemical criteria, expressed lymphoid-associated surface antigens. Dual staining of individual blasts demonstrated simultaneous expression of myeloperoxidase (MPO) (including Auer rods) in association with either T-11, CALLA, or terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase. Blasts from one patient with ANLL demonstrated T cell receptor gene rearrangement, while blasts from another patient demonstrated characteristics associated with T (T-11), B (CALLA and heavy-chain immunoglobulin gene rearrangement), and myeloid (MPO) lineage. There were no consistent cytogenetic abnormalities, and no patient demonstrated independent leukemic clones. Each patient with typical ALL, except for myeloid-associated antigens, achieved complete remission with conventional induction therapy for ALL. By contrast, three of the seven children with ANLL whose blasts expressed the T-11 surface antigen failed ANLL induction therapy. These three patients subsequently achieved remission with ALL therapy.