The BCR-ABL kinase inhibitor imatinib mesylate induces complete cytogenetic response (CCR) in a high proportion of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) patients. However, patients in CCR usually demonstrate evidence of residual BCR-ABL-positive progenitors. The mechanisms underlying persistence of small numbers of malignant progenitors in imatinib-sensitive patients are unclear. BCR-ABL kinase domain mutations affecting drug binding can lead to secondary resistance to imatinib. We show here that kinase mutations could be detected in CD34+ cells isolated from CML patients in CCR on imatinib. Most mutations seen have not been reported in previous clinical studies. Interestingly, several of the involved amino acid positions have been implicated in an in vitro mutagenesis screen. These BCR-ABL mutations were associated with varying levels of imatinib resistance. Two of 5 patients in whom mutations were detected on initial evaluation have relapsed. In addition, 4 patients in whom mutations were not initially detected, but with rising BCR-ABL mRNA levels on quantitative polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR) analysis, had mutations detected on follow-up evaluation. We conclude that BCR-ABL kinase mutations can be detected in CD34+ cells from CML patients in CCR on imatinib, may contribute to persistence of small populations of malignant progenitors, and could be a potential source of relapse. © 2005 by The American Society of Hematology.