The natural killer (NK) activity of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and lymphocytes with the capacity to form stable rosettes with neuraminidase-treated sheep red blood cells (E+) was studied in 28 previously untreated patients (11 at stage 0, 10 at stage I and 7 at stages II and III, according to Rai's classification) and 7 treated patients with B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL), all of them at stage 0 according to Rai's classification after treatment, and in 15 healthy controls. The mean NK activities of PBMC and E+ lymphocytes from untreated patients were significantly decreased (p less than 0.001) when compared with those of PBMC and E+ lymphocytes, respectively, from healthy controls. However, PBMC and E+ cells from treated patients demonstrated NK activity similar to that of the corresponding cellular populations of controls (p greater than 0.05). Furthermore, there were no significant differences among the NK activities of E+ lymphocytes from untreated B-CLL patients in the different clinical stages 0, I, II and III, according to Rai's classification (p less than 0.05). These results demonstrate that the very low or undetectable levels of NK activity present in PBMC and E+ cell populations from previously untreated patients with B-CLL, regardless of the clinical stage of the disease, can be modified by systemic therapy with alkylating agents. Moreover, the NK activity of PBMC and E+ lymphocytes from some treated patients that have achieved the stage 0 according to Rai's classification after chemotherapy can be found within the range of the lytic activity shown by PBMC and E+ cells from normal donors.