A method was established to detect clonal B cell populations in frozen and paraffin-embedded tissues. The method is based on the polymerase chain reaction amplification of rearranged VH and V kappa genes using V gene family-specific primers. Monoclonal B cell populations could be detected in peripheral blood lymphocyte DNA in all 16 cases of B-CLL and immunocytoma investigated and in 8 of 10 cases of B cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma using frozen and paraffin sections. The amplification of V kappa rearrangements in addition to the VH amplification is a useful tool to verify the results of the heavy chain rearrangement and to detect proliferation of a B cell clone in cases in which no VH product was obtained. In spite of the degradation of DNA in paraffin-embedded tissues, we were able to find amplified polymerase chain reaction products of about 350 bp length in 8 of 10 cases analyzed. The method presented here may be helpful in routine diagnosis of B cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma using frozen or paraffin-embedded specimens.