Over-expression of the P-glycoprotein (Pgp), transmembrane drug efflux pump, has been shown to cause multidrug resistance of tumour cells (MDR). To investigate the clinical significance of Pgp expression for chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) diagnosis and monitoring we have studied 38 CML patients in various phases of the disease (chronic phase, CP; accelerated phase, AP; blast crisis, BC). Anti-Pgp monoclonal antibody UIC2 and FACScan analysis were used. Pgp functional activity was investigated by evaluation of verapamil influence upon rhodamine 123 efflux from the cells. Correlations between Pgp and CD34 expression were investigated. In CP, Pgp-expressing cells were found in 2/14 patients; in one of them Pgp proved to be non-functional. There were few Pgp-expressing cells in AP cases. The group of BC patients consisted of cases resistant to chemotherapy. This gave us the opportunity to consider whether drug resistance of BC CML patients is preferentially connected with Pgp-mediated MDR. 11/22 BC patients had 20% or more of Pgp-expressing blasts in the peripheral blood. In all four Pgp+ BC cases studied for Pgp activity this protein was functional. Only 4/22 BC patients demonstrated large (40% or more) fractions of Pgp+ blasts. Moreover, sequential studies of 11 BC CML patients during treatment revealed an increase in the number of Pgp-expressing cells in only two cases. This suggests that Pgp+ cells did not often accumulate in BC CML patients due to chemotherapy and are the cause of drug resistance in only a few cases. A positive correlation between Pgp and CD34 expression was found (r = 0.69; P = 0.0004). 3/22 BC CML patients had large fractions of both Pgp+ and CD34+ blasts in their peripheral blood. The BC CML patients with this immunophenotype of blast cells may represent a subtype of BC CML resistant to treatment due to Pgp overexpression.