Although B cell leukemias and, recently, T cell leukemias can be identified both by surface marker and molecular analysis, there remains a population of acute undifferentiated leukemias (AUL) that cannot be allocated definitively to a single cell lineage. AUL was diagnosed in nine patients according to stringent criteria. We combined both immunologic and molecular approaches to analyze further the ambiguous origin of AUL cells. Southern blot analysis revealed rearranged Ig heavy-chain genes in seven patients and indicated a biclonal or oligoclonal leukemic cell population in three of them, including one case of AUL with translocation (4;11). Analysis of cell surface markers showed expression of at least one early B cell-associated antigen (BA- 1, BA-2, B4, UL-38) in six of these seven patients, with coexpression of a myeloid antigen (VIM-2) in three patients. Leukemic cells of two other patients neither exhibited Ig chain gene rearrangements nor expressed B cell-associated antigens. T cell receptor beta-chain genes showed germline configuration in all nine cases. Our results demonstrate heterogeneity among AUL patients based on molecular and surface marker analyses and suggest that most AUL blast cells are derived from a precursor cell that shares phenotypic and genotypic characteristics of early B cells with certain surface antigens of myeloid cells, in some cases of AUL more than one abnormal cell clone or subclone may exist, and the cellular origin, at least of some AULs exhibiting t(4;11), may be truly B cell lineage committed.