Haematological, immunophenotypic and cytogenetic characteristics were analysed in 241 patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) M0, including 58 children. Children < 3 years and adults between 60 and 70 years of age were most frequently affected. Immunophenotyping showed a heterogeneous phenotype. Anti-myeloperoxidase was positive in about half of the patients. Cytogenetic data were available from 129 (54%) patients. A normal karyotype was found in only 24%. Most of the abnormalities were unbalanced and the chromosomes 5, 7, 8 and 11 were the most frequently affected. Survival data were available from 152 treated patients (63%). The median overall survival for all patients was 10 months, 20 months for children (n = 36), 10 months for the young adult group (n = 50) and 7 months for the elderly patients (n = 66) (P = 0·09). Karyotype was not a prognostic factor influencing survival. AML M0 shows the immunological characteristics of early progenitor cells, but the expression of the different markers and cytogenetic abnormalities is heterogeneous. The prognosis is poor compared with other de novo AML and similar to that of AML with multilineage dysplasia or AML following myelodysplastic syndromes.