Flow immunophenotyping, DNA content analysis, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification for t(11;14) and t(14;18) were performed on 11 cases of typical mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), 5 cases of apparent MCL with proliferation centers (MCL-PC), and 5 cases of small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL). Immunophenotyping showed IgM (P < .001), Ig light (P < .001), and CD20 (P < .001) expression to be more intense in MCL than in SLL. In MCL-PC, the mean intensity of IgM, Ig light chain, and CD20 expression was intermediate to the intensities observed in MCL and SLL. Furthermore, in contrast to SLL, all MCL and 4 of 5 MCL-PC cases exhibited stronger CD20 than CD19 expression. CD10 expression was not observed in any case and CD5 expression was present in all SLL and MCL-PC cases and in 9 of 11 MCL cases. DNA content analysis showed an S- phase fraction of less than 3% in all cases studied and, except for 1 MCL case, all lymphomas were DNA diploid. The t(11;14) breakpoint junctions involving the bcl-1 major translocation cluster were amplified by PCR in 4 of 11 (36%) MCL cases and in none of the MCL-PC or SLL cases. The t(14;18) involving the bcl-2 major breakpoint region was not identified by PCR in any case. We conclude that the level of expression of surface antigens and the rapid detection of t(11;14) by PCR are potentially useful for distinguishing MCL and SLL in the clinical setting. Further investigations as to the biologic relationship between MCL, MCL-PC, and SLL, and the utility of t(11;14) PCR in these lymphomas are warranted.