Immunoglobulin genes in their germ-line form are separated DNA subsegments that must be joined by means of recombinations during B-cell development. Individual immunoglobulin-gene rearrangements are specific for a given B cell and its progeny. We show that the detection of such gene rearrangements by Southern hybridization provides a sensitive marker for both clonality and B-cell lineage within lymphoid tissues lacking expression of definitive surface phenotypes. We have used these genetic markers in three ways: to establish a diagnosis of lymphoma in a neoplastic disorder of uncertain cell type, to show that some lymphomas that were previously classified as being of T-cell type in fact contain monoclonal B cells, and to detect clonal B-cell populations within lymphomatous tissues of uncertain immunotype and within an atypical lymphofollicular hyperplasia having no other clonal surface markers. These sensitive and unique indicators of clonality located directly at the DNA level are capable of providing insights into the cellular origin, early detection, and natural history of neoplasia.