A murine model of minor histocompatibility antigen-mismatched bone marrow transplantation (BMT) was used to study the role of timing of donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI) in eliciting graft-versus-host (GVH) and graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) reactivity. We gave DLI at weeks 3 and 12 after BMT and related its ability to induce a GVL effect with (1) evolution of T cell chimeric status and (2) the extent to which DLI could elicit lymphohematopoietic GVH (LHGVH) reactivity. All mice remained free of GVH disease, but only week 3 DLI chimeras exhibited a significant GVL response when challenged with host-type leukemia cells. In these week 3 DLI chimeras, host-reactive T cells were found to proliferate in vivo (5- [and-6]-carboxyfluorescein diacetate, succinimidyl esther [CFSE]-labeled DLI inocula, TCR-Vbeta6(+) T-cell frequency) and T-cell chimerism rapidly converted from mixed into complete donor type, indicating the occurrence of LHGVH reactivity. In week 12 chimeras, DLI elicited none of the activities noted at week 3. Yet, in both instances, splenocytes, recovered following DLI, generated an equally strong antihost proliferative response in a mixed lymphocyte reaction, thereby arguing against a decisive role of regulatory cells. The lack of in vivo LHGVH reactivity after week 12 DLI was associated with a substantially increased level of pre-existing host-type T-cell chimerism. We conclude that elicitation of a GVL effect may require LHGVH reactivity and that the reason why timing of DLI was critical for obtaining LHGVH reactivity and the desired GVL effect may lie in the evolution of chimeric status. A possible direct involvement of residual host-type antigen-presenting cells in eliciting LHGVH reactivity after DLI should be studied using models that allow chimerism analysis in non-T-cell lineages.