We prospectively studied absolute lymphocyte (ALC) and monocyte counts (AMC), lymphocyte subsets and proliferative in vitro responses to mitogen and antigen in 12 patients with AL-amyloidosis (AL) undergoing autologous blood stem cell transplantation (SCT) with high-dose i.v. melphalan. Myeloid and lymphoid recovery (>500 per microl) occurred in a median of 10 days post SCT. While there was a continuous decline in the number of CD4+ T cells at 3 months, ALC, AMC, B cells (CD19+), CD8+ T cells, and NK cells (CD16+/56+) returned to baseline. While T cell proliferative responses to phytohemagglutinin (PHA) remained depressed, B cell function measured by the proliferative response to staphylococcal antigen returned to baseline by 3 months. To supplement our findings, we retrospectively evaluated ALC, AMC and serum immunoglobulin levels in a separate group of patients treated with the same protocol at our institution. ALC and AMC recovery was similar to the pattern observed in the initial study group. Immunoglobulin levels remained within normal ranges at 3 and 12 months after SCT. Of 50 patients who were followed for a minimum of 1 year following SCT, seven (14%) developed shingles and one (2%) had PCP pneumonia. In conclusion, cellular immune function, reflected by absolute numbers of CD4+ T cells and PHA responsive T cell proliferation, is significantly suppressed at 3 months after SCT in patients with AL, and this post-transplant immunosuppression is associated with a low but clinically meaningful occurrence of opportunistic infections typical of T cell immunosuppression.