One of the most common karyotypic abnormalities is the t(14;18) translocation, which is found in many lymphomas that have a characteristic follicular morphology. Recent molecular studies have shown that this chromosomal translocation results in the juxtaposition of the candidate proto-oncogene bcl-2 (B-cell leukemia-lymphoma) on chromosome 18 with the immunoglobulin heavy-chain locus on chromosome 14. However, because performing accurate cytogenetic studies in solid hematolymphoid neoplasms is difficult, knowledge of the prevalence of the t(14;18) translocation and, by association, the extent of bcl-2 involvement in human lymphomas is limited. We used a number of chromosome-18 DNA probes to analyze various subtypes of Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas and test for structural abnormalities near or within the bcl-2 gene. Molecular features of the t(14;18) translocation were found in virtually all follicular neoplasms and about 28 percent of diffuse large-cell lymphomas. No changes in bcl-2 were found in several other subtypes of Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, including those previously suggested to originate from follicular-center cells and those about which cytogenetic data have been difficult to obtain. Our findings suggest a close pathogenetic relation between bcl-2 and a large group of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, both with and without a follicular morphology. The methods employed in this study may be useful in improving the accuracy of diagnosis and subclassification of malignant lymphomas.