The majority of sinonasal non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHLs) are thought to originate from T-cell lineage. However, they often express natural killer (NK)-cell markers so that their origin still remains obscure. In this study, cell type of sinonasal NHLs were characterized by immunohistochemical and Southern blot analyses. We examined nine patients with sinonasal NHL. Six patients with tonsillar or pharyngeal non-B-cell lymphomas served as a control group. Immunohistochemical study showed that all nine cases of sinonasal NHL were CD56+CD2+, whereas controls were CD56-CD2+. According to the rearrangement of T- cell receptors (TCRs) and expression of CD3 markers, the sinonasal NHL cases were classified into three groups: TCR-CD56(Leu-19)+CD3(Leu4)- NHL (three patients), TCR-CD56+CD3+ NHL (five patients), and TCR+CD56+CD3+ NHL (one patient). In contrast, control patients' NHLs were TCR+CD56-CD3+. These results imply that eight cases of TCR-CD56+ sinonasal NHL are of NK-cell lineage. Among these eight cases, TCR- CD56+CD3+ cases (five of eight patients) were rather similar to the phenotype of fetal NK cells. From these results, the majority of sinonasal NHLs seem to originate from varying maturation stages of NK- cell lineage.