Conflicting results have been published on whether or not myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) affect all cell lineages. Involvement of myeloid and erythroid cell lineages has been regularly observed, but it remains controversial whether the different lymphoid cell lineages are involved. In this study of eight patients with MDS associated with monosomy 7, fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) was used to enumerate the chromosomes 7 in interphase cells. With the probe D7Z1, the rate of false-positive detection of monosomy 7 was 3% +/- 2% in normal cells. T- and B-cell lines were established from eight patients with MDS and monosomy 7. As determined by FISH in interphase cells, 1.9% (0% to 3%) of the cells in the B-cell lines showed one fluorescent spot and 1.1% (0% to 2.9%) of the cells in the T-cell lines. These values do not differ from normal values. However, the possibility that normal cells were selected when the T- and B-cell lines were established could not be excluded. Therefore, peripheral blood cells were obtained, separated according to surface markers specific for lymphoid and myeloid cell lineage with a cell sorter, and analyzed for the expression of monosomy 7 by FISH. Antibodies recognizing T cells (CD3), B cells (CD20), natural killer (NK) cells (CD57), monocytes and granulocytes (low and high expression of CD11b antigen), and myeloid progenitors (CD33) were used to separate cells. The expression of monosomy 7 in the T cells, NK cells, and B cells did not differ from control values. These results in the lymphoid subpopulations are in stark contrast with the observations in the myeloid populations; the percentage of cells with monosomy 7 ranged from 9% to 78% (controls: 6% +/- 2%) in cells with low CD11b expression, 20% to 89% in cells with a high expression of the CD11b antigen (controls: 7% +/- 3%), and 23% to 91% in the CD33 positive cells (controls: 5% +/- 3%). The results of this study suggest that monosomy 7 does not usually affect lymphoid subpopulations but is restricted to committed progenitor cells with the capacity to differentiate into mature myeloid cells.