Centrocytic lymphomas are defined in the Kiel classification as B-cell lymphomas composed exclusively of cells resembling cleaved follicular center cells (FCC). These lymphomas have been shown to be histologically, immunophenotypically, and clinically distinct from other cleaved FCC lymphomas. DNA from 18 centrocytic lymphomas (14 patients) was analyzed using Southern blotting and probes for immunoglobulin heavy (JH) and kappa light chain (JK) joining gene, T- cell receptor beta chain constant gene (CB), bcl-1, bcl-2, and c-myc gene rearrangements. All of the lymphomas had JH and JK rearrangements, confirming their B-cell origin. None of the specimens had detectable CB, bcl-2, or c-myc rearrangements. However, 4 of 14 patients (28.6%) had rearrangement of the chromosome 11 bcl-1 locus. Therefore, centrocytic lymphomas are genotypically distinguishable from the majority of other small cleaved FCC lymphomas by their lack of demonstrable bcl-2 rearrangements. This supports the distinct nature of centrocytic lymphomas and suggests the lack of importance for the putative oncogene bcl-2 in these cases. Furthermore, the frequent rearrangement of bcl-1 suggests a possible role for this locus in the pathogenesis of at least some centrocytic lymphomas.