Gliomatosis cerebri is a rare brain tumor which histologically resembles a diffuse cerebral astrocytoma. It can simultaneously infiltrate multiple sites in the cerebrum, cerebellum, brainstem, and spinal cord. This remarkable diffuseness has led to the idea that gliomatosis cerebri does not derive from a solitary focus but must arise from a broad field of glial cells. We studied the chromosomes from gliomatosis cerebri in a 12-year-old boy by conventional cytogenetics and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Aside from normal cells, we found a majority of cells with the karyotype 44,XY,del(6)(q25),del(14)(q21), der(15;21)(q10;q10),add(18)(q22),del(19)(p12),add(20)(p13),-21. A smaller proportion of cells had 88 chromosomes with a doubling of this abnormal karyotype. These findings are consistent with a clonal neoplasm stemming from a single cell. The chromosome changes we observed, with the possible exception of the chromosome 6 deletion, did not resemble those frequently found in astrocytomas. Gliomatosis cerebri may therefore belong to a separate category of brain tumors.