The capacity of alpha-interferon (alpha-IFN) to induce lymphokine activated killer (LAK) cytotoxicity in the absence of interleukin-2 (IL2) has prompted us to test whether or not its ability to reduce dramatically the number of Ph1+ clones in chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML) patients is in part mediated through the generation of natural killer (NK) or LAK activity. The latter were tested using NK-sensitive (K562) and NK-resistant (Raji) cell lines in a target-cell colony-growth inhibition assay. Effector cells (E) were patient blood mononuclear cells (MC) without in vitro activation prior to their coculture with targets (T). Out of 16 patients tested so far, three failed to undergo cytogenetic remission under alpha-IFN therapy. No NK nor LAK cells could be detected in the MC from two of them while the other displayed NK activity within upper normal limits. 13 patients underwent complete (eight) or partial (five) cytogenetic remission together with significantly high NK and/or LAK activity as compared to normal controls. These observations could favour the hypothesis of an indirect effect of alpha-IFN on leukaemic cells, mediated by cells involved in immune surveillance.