Immunoglobulin gene rearrangement analysis and somatic cell hybridization techniques were used to examine the malignant cell population in an unusual patient with hairy cell leukemia and macroglobulinemia (N Engl J Med 296:92, 1977). Although previous investigations suggested that the IgM macroglobulin was secreted by the circulating leukemia cells, anti-idiotype monoclonal antibodies raised to the IgM macroglobulin failed to react with the malignant cells in the circulation and bone marrow. In contrast, approximately 50% of the mononuclear cells from an enlarged inguinal lymph node reacted strongly with the anti-idiotype antibodies. Subsequent reanalysis of all cell populations demonstrated that whereas the circulating and bone marrow cells were IgM kappa-bearing, the macroglobulin was IgM gamma-bearing and the lymph node cells were evenly divided among IgM kappa-bearing and IgM gamma-bearing. Immunofluorescence flow cytometry indicated that those lymph node cells that reacted strictly with the anti-idiotype antibody were IgM gamma-bearing, demonstrating that they were the source of macroglobulin. An analysis of immunoglobulin gene DNA confirmed the coexistence of two distinct malignant B cell populations in the lymph node and indicated that the IgM kappa-bearing lymph node cells were identical to the circulating and bone marrow leukemic cells.