beta-emitting 166Ho (t1/2 = 26.78 hours, E(beta)max = 1.8 MeV) complexed with the phosphonic acid chelator, 1,4,7,10 tetraazacyclododecane-1,4,7,10-tetra(methylene phosphonic acid) (DOTMP) at a ligand-to-metal ratio of 1.5:1 binds to bone. This radioactive complex is a marrow-ablating radiopharmaceutical that appears useful for preparation of bone marrow (BM) transplant recipients without the morbidity usually associated with total body irradiation preparatory regimens. We have found with seven splenectomized young adult beagle dogs that a 166Ho radiopharmaceutical dosage of 370 MBq/kg body weight provides an initial skeletal radioactivity burden of at least 1.5 GBq/kg skeleton and results in complete ablation of hematopoietic marrow cell populations within 7 days. The beta particle flux distribution in BM-forming skeletal tissue is not uniform. Red marrow radiation doses varied from 30 to 115 Gy as estimated by direct radioassay and autoradiographic analyses of both bone biopsies and postmortem samples; the median value of 61 Gy agreed with our theoretical expectations. In vivo radioactivity distribution was evaluated with nuclear imaging methods. Apparently, normal hematopoiesis was restored in three dogs with autologous BM transplants performed 5 to 6 days after administration of the marrow ablative radiopharmaceutical, 166Ho-DOTMP. BM biopsies at 7 to 10 months posttransplantation indicate continued normal hematopoietic activity.