Clinical studies are evaluating possible advantages of allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplantation (PBSCT) over bone marrow transplantation (BMT). We compared immune reconstitution after PBSCT (n = 20) and BMT (n = 20) in terms of lymphocyte subset counts and proliferative in vitro responses to mitogens and recall antigens (follow-up: 5 to 11 months posttransplant). Additionally, 10 PBSC harvests and 10 marrow harvests were analyzed for their composition of immunocompetent cells. Compared with BMT patients, PBSCT recipients had PB counts of naive (CD4+CD45RA+) and memory (CD4+CD45RO+) helper T cells and of B cells (CD19+) that were elevated (P < .003, P < .001, and P < .004, respectively) and proliferative responses to phytohemagglutinin (P < .0001), pokeweed mitogen (P < .02), Tetanus toxoid (P < .0005), and Candida (P < .004) that were increased. PBSCT recipients received a mean of 188 (range, 44 to 280) x 10(6) naive helper T cells and 169 (range, 18 to 296) x 10(5) memory helper T cells per kilogram; the corresponding numbers for BMT recipients were 11 (range, 4 to 24) and 10 (range, 1 to 22) x 10(5) cells per kilogram, respectively. The question of whether the documented improved in vitro immune competence after PBSCT is associated with a lower incidence of infectious complications in vivo still needs further study.