The DNA rearrangements leading to the assembly of genes coding for the immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) in B cells and the T cell receptor for antigen in T cells are not completely lineage specific. This probably reflects the use of a common recombinase by IgH and the T cell receptor. This paper describes novel observations on the nature of these cross-lineage rearrangements. A high proportion (though not all) IgH rearrangements in human T leukaemic cells involve the D segment nearest to the J region (DQ52). This same D segment is not involved in B cell IgH rearrangements with one important exception, namely a proportion of B cell leukaemic clones with the most primitive B cell precursor phenotype. These observations have potentially important implications for early lymphoid cell differentiation and in particular support the idea that the 3' D plus J region might lie within a limited window of accessibility of the IgH gene in precursor lymphocytes.