Lack of sufficient cellular activity of asparagine synthetase (AS) in blast cells compared with normal tissue is thought to be the basis of the antileukaemic effect of L-asparaginase in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Although L-asparaginase is routinely used in ALL, its role and value in the treatment of acute myelogenous leukaemia (AML) is still being discussed. To evaluate the pharmacological basis for L-asparaginase treatment, we established pretreatment monitoring of the intracellular AS activity in blast cells of patients with AML and ALL. There was no general difference in AS activity between ALL and AML samples. Significantly lower AS activity, however, was found in the B-lineage ALL subgroups as well as AML- M5.