Immunohistochemistry of acute leukaemias in bone-marrow paraffin sections is commonly thought to be useless because of the poor preservation of many lineage-related markers. The recent development of antibodies against fixative-resistant epitopes and of new antigen retrieval techniques, however, has expanded the possibility of accurately testing routine samples. To assess the relevance of paraffin section phenotyping in lineage determination, 110 examples of acute leukaemia were studied by specific antibodies against CD1a, CD3, CD15, CD20, CD34, CD68, CD79a, TdT, myeloperoxidase, glycophorin A, and factor-VIII-related antigen. The cases included 59 acute myeloid leukaemias, classified according to the FAB cooperative group criteria, 39 precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemias (ALLs), seven T-ALLs, and five mixed precursor B-cell/myeloid acute leukaemias. The combination of the markers employed always allowed the identification of the cell lineage (myeloid, lymphoid or mixed) and, in some instances, of phenotypic profiles characteristic of distinct acute leukaemia subtypes. According to the results obtained, bone-marrow biopsy may be regarded as a reliable tool for acute leukaemia diagnosis; this observation is of practical relevance especially for the classification of cases which lack circulating blasts in the peripheral blood or showing dry tap at bone-marrow aspiration.