DNase/collagenase treatments are widely used to obtain single-cell suspensions of tumour cells and tumour-infiltrating T lymphocytes (TIL) from solid tumours. Since the functional integrity of such cells has been questioned, we have studied whether treatments with commonly used preparations of these enzymes could affect the expression of lymphocyte surface molecules and lymphocyte proliferative responsiveness. With peripheral-blood-derived T cells as a model, flow-cytometric analysis revealed strongly reduced expression of distinct CD molecules for each enzyme, notably CD2, CD4, CD8 and CD44 for DNase, and CD4, CD14, CD16, and CD56 for collagenase. The effects were found to be due to protease contaminations present in all but the purest enzyme preparations tested. Addition of serum or trypsin inhibitor abolished the effects. Since serum-free media are widely used to expand tumour-infiltrating T cells for clinical therapeutic use, data from early phenotypic analyses can be strongly misleading. Even after an 18-h rest period following the enzyme treatments, re-expression of the affected membrane markers was still far from complete. On the other hand, despite strongly reduced expression of CD2 molecules on the lymphocyte membrane, anti-CD2-induced proliferation was not affected, showing the redundancy of this signal molecule. Since other important T cell activation molecules (TCR, CD3, CD28) were not affected by enzymatic treatment, the use of expensive, highly purified collagenase/DNase preparations does not seem to be mandatory in clinical studies with expanded TIL.