The absence of wild type retinoblastoma (Rb) gene expression in a wide variety of human solid tumors suggests an etiologic role for this tumor suppressor gene in human cancer. We have evaluated the involvement of Rb gene inactivation in the pathogenesis and progression of human lymphoma and leukemia. We examined the genomic configuration and transcription of the Rb gene in cultured cell lines and primary cases of T- and B-cell lymphomas and leukemias. By Southern analysis, abnormalities of the Rb locus were identified in 1 of 5 T-cell acute lymphoblastic lymphoma (T-ALL) cell lines, 1 of 26 primary cases of T- ALL, 1 of 40 primary cases of chronic lymphocytic lymphoma/well- differentiated lymphoma (CLL/WDL), and 1 of 15 primary cases of intermediately differentiated lymphoma (IDL). By Northern analysis, markedly reduced or abnormal expression of the Rb gene was identified in 2 of 5 T-ALL cell lines, 1 of 7 primary cases of T-ALL, 1 of 5 primary cases of CLL/WDL, and 1 of 6 primary cases of IDL. These findings show that Rb gene inactivation can be associated with a broad range of lymphoid neoplasms and that loss of the tumor suppressor function of Rb may influence the pathogenesis and progression of lymphoma/leukemia.