The Philadelphia (Ph1) chromosome, the cytogenetic hallmark of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), has also been detected in a significant number of acute lymphoblastic leukemias (ALL). Using in situ hybridization, we demonstrate that in accordance with observations in CML the Ph1 chromosome in ALL patients is the result of a consistent translocation of the c-abl oncogene to the Ph1 chromosome. Southern blot analysis using bcr probes, however, suggests that Ph1-positive ALL includes heterogeneous leukemic subtypes: six ALL patients showed bcr rearrangements as observed in CML; in three other patients recombination involving 5′ bcr sequences could be demonstrated, but the corresponding translocated 3′ bcr sequences were not detectable. A third group of five patients did not show any bcr rearrangements at all. Northern blot analysis using RNA from three Ph1-positive ALL patients revealed that in the leukemic cells of two patients larger c- abl mRNA transcripts were present, as in CML. In the RNA of one patient without a detectable bcr rearrangement, only the normal c-abl mRNA transcripts are present. The observed heterogeneity in bcr rearrangements of this group of Ph1-positive ALL patients is in contrast with the consistent results obtained in more than 50 Ph1- positive CML patients investigated in chronic and acute states.