Classic Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) tissue contains a small population of morphologically distinct malignant cells called Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg (HRS) cells, associated with the development of HL. Using 3'-rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE) we identified an alternative mRNA for the DEC-205 multilectin receptor in the HRS cell line L428. Sequence analysis revealed that the mRNA encodes a fusion protein between DEC-205 and a novel C-type lectin DCL-1. Although the 7.5-kb DEC-205 and 4.2-kb DCL-1 mRNA were expressed independently in myeloid and B lymphoid cell lines, the DEC-205/DCL-1 fusion mRNA (9.5 kb) predominated in the HRS cell lines (L428, KM-H2, and HDLM-2). The DEC-205 and DCL-1 genes comprising 35 and 6 exons, respectively, are juxtaposed on chromosome band 2q24 and separated by only 5.4 kb. We determined the DCL-1 transcription initiation site within the intervening sequence by 5'-RACE, confirming that DCL-1 is an independent gene. Two DEC-205/DCL-1 fusion mRNA variants may result from cotranscription of DEC-205 and DCL-1, followed by splicing DEC-205 exon 35 or 34-35 along with DCL-1 exon 1. The resulting reading frames encode the DEC-205 ectodomain plus the DCL-1 ectodomain, the transmembrane, and the cytoplasmic domain. Using DCL-1 cytoplasmic domain-specific polyclonal and DEC-205 monoclonal antibodies for immunoprecipitation/Western blot analysis, we showed that the fusion mRNA is translated into a DEC-205/DCL-1 fusion protein, expressed in the HRS cell lines. These results imply an unusual transcriptional control mechanism in HRS cells, which cotranscribe an mRNA containing DEC-205 and DCL-1 prior to generating the intergenically spliced mRNA to produce a DEC-205/DCL-1 fusion protein.