The possibility that the presence of lactoferrin in aspirates of odontogenic cyst fluid might be a useful preoperative diagnostic marker for odontogenic keratocyst was investigated. Using qualitative and quantitative immunodiffusion methods fluid from 29 of 29 dental (radicular) cysts, 12 of 14 dentigerous cysts and 27 of 31 keratocysts were found to contain lactoferrin. Although some of the highest concentrations of lactoferrin were detected in fluids from keratocysts, there was no significant difference between lactoferrin concentrations among the three groups. Neutrophil elastase was detected in 20 of 24 samples tested, 22 of which also contained lactoferrin. Immunocytochemical localisation of both lactoferrin and elastase was confined to neutrophils infiltrating cyst walls. These results suggest that lactoferrin in fluid from odontogenic cysts is derived from infiltrating neutrophils and that its presence in aspirated fluids is not a useful diagnostic marker for odontogenic keratocyst.