We studied the expression of CD5 and immunoglobulin variable gene families in a panel of monoclonal Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) transformed lines, chronic lymphocytic leukemias (CLLs) and CD5+ and CD5- B-cell lymphomas. The CD5 gene expression was in all cases identical to that of T-cell malignancies. The utilization of the various VH and VK gene families was roughly proportional to the estimated gene family size in EBV lines obtained from adult healthy subjects. In contrast we found a statistically significant biased usage of VH6 in CLL and VH5 in CD5+ lymphomas as compared with EBV lines, and of VKIII in both CLL and CD5+ lymphomas as compared with EBV lines. Some differences in the variable gene usage were also noted when comparing CD5+ and CD5- lymphomas. These findings are analyzed in the context of possible mechanisms involved in the malignant transformation of CD5+ B cells.