Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from five patients with IgG+ B-type chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) were analyzed for the presence of clone-specific Ig H chain variable region gene mRNA transcripts linked to C mu and/or C alpha. This was assessed by (1) comparing the lengths of portions of the VHDJH of the IgG+ CLL clones with those of the mu and alpha isotype-expressing B cells, (2) performing clone-specific endonuclease digestion studies, and (3) determining the DNA sequences of the mu and alpha isotype-expressing cDNA. Thus, when B-cell mRNA from these five patients were reverse transcribed with C gamma-specific primers and then amplified by polymerase chain reaction, dominant cDNA were found with lengths corresponding to those of the IgG+ CLL B cell. In addition, in four cases, cDNA of lengths identical to those of the CLL B cell were detected when mRNA was reverse transcribed and amplified using c mu- and/or C alpha-specific primers, strongly suggesting clonal relatedness. These CLL-related mu- and alpha- expressing cDNA were present in greater amounts that unrelated (non- CLL) mu- and alpha-expressing cDNA from normal B cells that used genes of the same VH family. When the sequences of these CLL-related C mu- and C alpha-expressing cDNA were compared with those of the IgG+ CLL clones, it was clear that they were derived from the same ancestral gene as the IgG-expressing CLL B cell, thus documenting their common origin. Finally, nucleotide point mutations were observed in the mu- and alpha-expressing cDNA of certain patients, indicating divergence with the CLL. These data suggest that IgM+ B cells, which are precursors of the leukemic B cells, exist in increased numbers in the blood of most patients with IgG+ B-CELL and that these cells may differentiate, accumulate V genes mutations, and undergo isotype switching in vivo. In addition, the data are consistent with a sequential-hit model for the evolution of CLL.