In a variety of adult and childhood leukaemia cell samples collected at different states of the disease, we analysed in a series of sequentially performed slot-blot or Northern-blot hybridisation experiments the expression of genes possibly involved in multiple drug resistance (MDR) (mdr1/P-glycoprotein, DNA topoisomerase II, glutathione-S-transferase π), and the expression of the DNA topoisomerase I and histone 3.1 genes. Occasionally, P-glycoprotein gene expression was additionally examined by indirect immunocyto- fluorescence using the monoclonal antibody C219. No significant difference in mdr1 /P-glycoprotein mRNA levels between primary and relapsed state acute lymphocytic leukaemias (ALL) was seen on average. Second or third relapses, however, showed a distinct tendency to an elevated expression of this multidrug transporter gene (up to 10-fold) in part well beyond the value seen in the moderately cross-resistant T-lymphoblastoid CCRF-CEM subline CCRF VCR 100. Increased mdr1/P-glycoprotein mRNA levels were also found in relapsed state acute myelogeneous leukaemias (AML), and in chronic lymphocytic leukaemias (CLL) treated with chlorambucil and/or prednisone for several years. Topoisomerase I and topoisomerase II mRNA levels were found to be very variable. Whereas in all but one case of CLL topoisomerase II mRNA was not detected by slot-blot hybridisations, strong topoisomerase I and topoisomerase II gene expression levels, frequently exceeding the levels monitored in the CCRF-CEM cell line, were seen in many cell samples of acute leukaemia. If topoisomerase II mRNA was undetectable, expression of topoisomerase I was clearly visible throughout. These observations might be valuable considering the possible treatment with specific topoisomerase I or topoisomerase II inhibitors. Significant positive correlations were found (i) for topoisomerase I and histone 3.1 gene expression levels in general (P< 0.001), and (ii) in the CLL samples additionally for the expression levels of the mdr 1 gene, and the histone 3.1, topoisomerase I, and glutathione-S-transferase π genes, respectively.