Tumorigenesis has been shown to proceed through a series of genetic alterations involving protooncogenes and tumor-suppressor genes. Investigation of genomic instability of microsatellites has indicated a new mechanism for human carcinogenesis in hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer and sporadic cancer and this instability has been shown to be related to inherited predisposition to cancer. This study was conducted to determine whether such microsatellite instability is associated with the evolution of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) to the blast crisis. Nineteen CML patients clinically progressing from the chronic phase to accelerated phase or blast crisis and 20 other patients in the CML chronic phase were studied. By polymerase chain reaction assay, DNAs for genomic instability in five separate microsatellites in chromosome arms 5q (Mfd27), 17p (Mfd41), 18q (DCC), 3p (CI3–9), and 8p (LPL) were examined. Differences in unrelated microsatellites of chronic and blastic phase DNAs in 14 of 19 patients (73.7%) were demonstrated. Somatic instability in five microsatellites, Mfd27, Mfd41, DCC, CI3–9, and LPL, was detected in 2 of 19 (10.5%), 8 of 19 (42.1%), 11 of 19 (57.9%), 4 of 17 (23.5%), and 4 of 17 (23.5%) cases. In 10 of 19 cases (52.6%), genetic instability in at least two of five microsatellites was observed and was categorized as replication error (RER+) phenotype. CML evolution cases with myeloid, lymphoid, and mixed phenotypes and the blast crisis and accelerated phase showed somatic instability in a number of microsatellites. No alterations in leukemic cells at the chronic phase could be detected in any microsatellites. These data indicate instability of microsatellites (RER+) but not familial predisposition to possibly be a late genetic event in the evolution of CML to blast crisis. In the microsatellite of the DCC gene, complicated alterations in band patterns caused by instability as well as loss of heterozygosity (LOH) were observed in 13 of 19 cases (68.4%): instability in 9 cases, instability plus LOH in 2 cases, and only LOH in 2 cases. These highly frequent alterations in microsatellites, including instability and LOH, suggesting that secondary events due possibly to loss of fidelity in replication and repair machinery may be significantly associated with CML evolution.