A comprehensive peripheral blood immunophenotype analysis of 16 multiple sclerosis (MS) patients was performed by three-color flow cytometric analysis, and the results were compared with those for age-matched healthy controls. The cell subsets quantified included T cells (CD3+), B cells (CD19+), NK cells (CD56+), CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, cytotoxic (CD28+) and suppressor precursor (CD28-) CD8+ T cells, CD45RA+ and CD45RO+ T cells (CD4+ and CD8+), and CD5+ T and B cells. Analysis of MS patients' peripheral blood revealed essentially normal levels of total T, B, and NK cells. In agreement with results obtained by other investigators, it was found that MS patients had an increased CD4/CD8 ratio, primarily due to a decrease in CD8+ T cells. MS patients were found to have a significantly decreased level of suppressor precursor (CD28-) CD8+ T cells compared with that of controls but to have normal levels of cytotoxic (CD28+) CD8+ T cells. These data indicate that MS patients do not have a general decrease in CD8+ T cells but that they have a specific decrease in the suppressor precursor subset only and normal levels of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells. MS patients also had a significant increase in memory (CD45RO+) CD4+ T cells and displayed a trend towards a decrease in naive (CD45RA+) T cells in the peripheral blood.