It is assumed that complement and noncomplement-mediated mechanisms are similarly responsible for Campath-1H-mediated killing of all T-cell subtypes in vivo. However, the differing surface expression of CD52 on T-cell subtypes suggests that may not be the case. The purpose of this study is to determine the extent and mechanism of Campath-1H-mediated elimination of different T-cell subtypes in peripheral blood. Whole blood or lymphocytes isolated from peripheral blood of healthy volunteers by Ficoll density centrifugation were incubated with Campath-1H, with or without complement and/or serum, and the resultant T-cell elimination mechanisms studied. For CD4(+) T lymphocytes, 60% and 40% cell death and for CD8(+) T lymphocytes 23% and 77% cell death, in peripheral blood, was mediated by complement and noncomplement mediated mechanisms, respectively. CD4(+) T cells demonstrated approximately twice the amount of surface CD52 compared with CD8(+) T cells, consistent with primarily complement-mediated killing for CD4(+) T cells. Thus, peripheral blood supports differential and partial elimination of T-cell subtypes, suggesting that the complete T-cell elimination seen in transplant recipients is most likely due to contribution from other lymphoid organs.