Immunomagnetic beads are well suited for positive selection of CD34+ cells. However, both unspecific binding of beads to cells as well as the effectiveness of detachment of beads from cells may represent significant problems. We used an anti-Fab antiserum (DETACHaBEAD, Dynal) for rapid and effective detachment of immunomagnetic beads from the positively selected cells. By this detachment technique, the cells remained phenotypically unaltered. To reduce unspecific binding, we have coated various anti-CD34 monoclonal antibodies directly to paramagnetic beads M450 (Dynal). Use of beads coated with BI-3C5 was found to be optimal with regard to yield and purity of the isolated cells. The yield was on average 1.5% (range 0.5-2.5%) of bone marrow mononuclear cells and the purity was usually greater than 95% CD34+ cells of the isolated cells. Subpopulations of the cells expressed myeloid markers (CD13, CD33, and to a lesser extent CD15 and CD14) or early B-lineage markers (CD19 and CD10). Most of the cells expressed CD38, and a majority of the cells also expressed CD41. In general, most of the CD34+ cells with low forward scatter expressed B-lineage markers, as was also the case for the few contaminating CD34- cells which were found to be predominantly CD37+ mature B cells. Reactivity with antibodies against T-lineage markers (CD2, CD3, CD4, CD7, and CD8) was generally detected only on 1-2% of the cells or less. Isolated cells responded to interleukin 3, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, mast cell growth factor, and/or granulocyte colony-stimulating factor alone or in combinations in short-term liquid cultures. The cells were also markedly enriched for granulocyte-macrophage colony-forming units as well as for early progenitor cells capable of forming blast colonies on preformed stromal feeder layers. Moreover, the CD34- population was depleted of 70-80% of CFU-GM and cells capable of blast colony formation. Thus, we conclude that the isolated cells are phenotypically unaltered after isolation, and show a normal response in various in vitro assays.