Neutrophils and band forms from patients with acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome were stained for the presence of myeloperoxidase using a cytochemical method (diaminobenzidine/hydrogen peroxide) and the alkaline phosphatase-anti-alkaline phosphatase immunocytochemical procedure (using monoclonal anti-myeloperoxidase). Neutrophils and bands were also stained for elastase and lactoferrin using monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies, respectively. Subpopulations of neutrophils and bands from cases of acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplasia exhibited a qualitative and/or quantitative deficiency in myeloperoxidase. In addition, a quantitative decrease in elastase and/or lactoferrin staining was detected. Thus, neutrophils and bands from patients with acute myoloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome have a defect in one or more of the constituents of primary and/or secondary granules. These defects are consistent with the view that abnormal neutrophils and bands are derived from a malignant clone of myeloid precursor cells.