The pathogenesis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) with a large cell component (DLLC, including diffuse large cell, DLCL; diffuse mixed cell, MX-D; and immunoblastic, IMB) is unknown. A novel candidate proto- oncogene, BCL6, that is involved in chromosome band 3q27 aberrations in NHL has been recently identified. We have investigated the incidence and disease-specificity of BCL6 rearrangements in a large panel of lymphoid tumors, including acute and chronic lymphoid leukemias (96 cases), various NHL types (125 cases), and multiple myelomas (23 cases). BCL6 rearrangements were found in 16/45 (35.5%) DLLC, more frequently in DLCL (15/33, 45%) than in MX-D (1/10, 10%), in 2/31 (6.4%) follicular NHL, and in no other tumor types. BCL6 rearrangements represent the first genetic lesion specifically and recurrently associated with DLLC and should prove useful for understanding the pathogenesis as well as for the clinical monitoring of these tumors.