Monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) were developed against the cCLLa, a 69- kilodalton leukemia-associated antigen expressed on malignant cells of B-type chronic lymphatic leukemia (B-CLL) and its variants: prolymphocytic (PLL) and hairy cell leukemias (HCL). Two hybridomas yielded approximately 2 and approximately 7.5 mg/mL of IgG2a kappa and IgM kappa, respectively. Monoclonal surface immunoglobulin-bearing cells of all B-CLL patients studied (n = 30) reacted with the MoAbs (r greater than .99) regardless of stage or lymphocyte count. This suggests that the malignant clone in CLL can be identified and its size monitored by using our MoAbs. In contrast, normal B lymphocytes, a large panel of normal, reactive and neoplastic cells, and malignant cell lines failed to react with either MoAb as judged by indirect immunofluorescence and by flow cytometry. Only two patients (one with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the other with acute myeloblastic leukemia) exhibited a small cell subset reactive with the MoAbs. cCLLa specificity was suggested by selective target cell reactivity and competitive inhibition-absorption and confirmed by immunoprecipitation. MoAbs IgG2a kappa and IgM kappa appeared to share antigenic determinants and were moderate and avid complement binders inducing 100% and 40% target cell lysis, respectively. cCLLa density on malignant CLL and HCL cells was estimated by equilibrium binding studies using the IgG2a kappa MoAb at 1.7 and 9 X 10(6)/cell, respectively. The restricted expression of the cCLLa and the specificity and cytolytic activity of the anti-cCLLa MoAbs support these antibodies as probes for the classification of lymphoproliferative diseases and for the specific diagnosis and treatment of B-CLL and its variants.