Autologous bone marrow (BM) transplantation after high dose therapy is widely used to treat acute leukemia, lymphoma, and selected solid tumors. In studies of BM purging with chemical agents, monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs), or other agents, the emphasis has been on the efficacy of tumor cell removal and sparing of hematopoietic progenitor cells. Two commonly used methods of BM purging for patients with acute myeloid leukemia have been the drug 4-hydroperoxycyclophosphamide (4- HC) and (MoAbs) directed to myeloid antigens such as CD14, CD15, and CD33. Although both methods of BM purging have potent activity against leukemia cells, 4-HC is also quite toxic to normal hematopoietic progenitor cells in the same concentrations that are used to deplete leukemia cells. To further characterize the cellular composition of BM after purging, we examined the effects of MoAbs plus complement and 4- HC on cells of the lymphoid lineage in the BM. 4-HC exerted a concentration-dependent cytotoxicity on clonogenic T lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, and lymphokine (interleukin-2)-activated killer (LAK) cells, whereas the anti-CD14 and anti-CD15 MoAbs had little effect. At a concentration of 4-HC commonly used for BM purging (60 micrograms/mL), there were 4 to 5 logs of T-cell depletion and almost complete elimination of NK- and LAK-cell activity. In contrast, 4-HC at low concentrations (eg, 3 micrograms/mL) spared the majority of lymphoid cells suggesting that low concentration 4-HC combined with MoAb purging may be a desirable alternative to higher concentration 4- HC. These data indicate that purging with antimyeloid MoAbs, but not with 4-HC, spares the function of mature graft lymphocytes. Infusion of viable lymphocytes may be important for the transfer of immune memory against microbial and neoplastic antigens and may hasten immune reconstitution. In addition, mature graft lymphocytes may also be selectively activated and expanded in conjunction with interleukin-2 administration after BM transplantation.