Recently we demonstrated that the t(11;18)(q21;q21) associated with extranodal marginal zone B cell lymphomas of MALT type results in the expression of a chimeric transcript fusing 5' API2 on chromosome 11 to 3' MLT on chromosome 18. Here we report the development of an RT-PCR approach for the detection of the API2-MLT fusion transcript and its application for the analysis of 58 cases of gastric lymphoma. Initially nested PCR amplification was combined with Southern analysis using internal API2 and MLT probes. A genuine API2-MLT fusion transcript of variable length was demonstrated in 11 out of 58 cases. Sequence analysis revealed that in all cases the breakpoint on chromosome 11 occurred between exons 7 and 8 of the API2 gene. In contrast, the breakpoints on chromosome 18 appeared to be heterogeneous as fusions to bp 814, 1123, and 1150, respectively, of MLT were observed. These observations allowed us to work out a highly sensitive diagnostic test for the API2-MLT fusion on an ABI Prism 7700 sequence detector that confirmed the results of our initial approach. The API2-MLT fusion was found in 48% of gastric marginal zone cell lymphomas of MALT type that did not contain a large cell component and it was lacking in all other lymphomas of the stomach.