Large cell lymphomas (LCLs) are heterogeneous in morphology, clinical presentation, and behavior. We studied 52 de novo LCLs of B-cell type for rearrangements of the bcl-2 and c-myc oncogenes by Southern blot analysis and related these data to the primary site of presentation, stage, and cytomorphology. Thirteen tumors had comigrating rearrangements of JH and bcl-2, indicative of a t(14;18). Far more primary nodal lymphomas than extranodal lymphomas carried a t(14;18) (40% v less than 5%). Additionally, almost all lymphomas with a t(14;18) versus 41% of the tumors without a bcl-2 rearrangement presented with lymphadenopathy. c-myc rearrangements were seen in 35% of the extranodal lymphomas and 5% of the nodal lymphomas. No differences were observed in bone marrow involvement and staging according to Ann Arbor. bcl-2 rearrangements were found in 50% of the LCLs with cleaved nuclei, whereas c-myc rearrangements were relatively frequent (25%) in the noncleaved subtype. Our data support the hypothesis that primary nodal and extranodal lymphomas have a different genetic origin.