Peripheral T cell lymphomas (PTCLs) form a morphologically heterogeneous group of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas that are generally considered to have immunophenotypes associated with mature T cells, usually those of helper T cells. We now describe and correlate the clinical, morphological, immunologic, and cell-kinetic findings based on the evaluation of eight tissue samples obtained at various times from a 13-year-old girl with PTCL. The early morphological expressions of this patient's PTCL were those of diffuse mixed-cell lymphoma and focal large-cell lymphoma (LCL) evolving from the histologic picture of an atypical immune response (AIR). These morphological findings were associated with an immature T cell immunophenotype associated with cortical thymocytes--namely, sheep erythrocyte rosette (sER)+, T11+, Leu-2a+, Leu-3a+, HLA-DR+, OKT6-, OKT9+, OKT10+--and with cell-kinetic findings that showed no evidence of aneuploidy and few cells in S phase. Diffuse pleomorphic LCL developed, which was associated with further dedifferentiation of the neoplastic T cells to the immunophenotype sER-, T11+, Leu-2a-, Leu-3a-, HLA-DR+, OKT6-, OKT9+, OKT10- and with cell-kinetic findings that demonstrated a distinct aneuploid population and a dramatic increase in the percentage of cells in the S phase. The immunophenotype of the PTCL at the time of the patient's death was T11-, Leu-2a-, Leu-3a-, HLA-DR+, OKT6-, OKT9+, OKT10-, an immunophenotype indistinguishable from that of a non-B non-T cell lymphoma. The immunologic findings in this case also suggest that an AIR in some cases may represent a prelymphomatous state or may be a morphological expression of PTCL. These observations indicate that PTCLs may be characterized by rapidly changing clinical, morphological, immunologic, and cell kinetic findings which are best evaluated by multidisciplinary studies.