A role for antigen stimulation in lymphoid neoplasia has been postulated and is supported by indirect evidence that suggests that the interaction of antigen with both T cells and B cells may constitute an epigenetic event that can contribute to tumour induction or tumour progression. Using myc-bearing transgenic mice that develop mainly clonal T-cell lymphomas we have investigated the possibility that endogenous antigen-mediated clonal deletion might be overridden in tumorigenesis. CD2-myc transgenic mice were backcrossed on to a CBA/Ca background to ensure Mtv-mediated deletion of V beta 11-expressing T cells in the resultant offspring. Lymphomas arising from these mice were subsequently screened for V beta 11 expression. There was a clear correlation between the age at which mice developed neoplasia and the tumour phenotype. Mice with CD4- CD8+ tumours succumbed to thymic lymphoma at a significantly younger age than mice developing CD4+ CD8+ tumours. A small number of tumours consisted of the 'forbidden' V beta 11 phenotype, showing that cells vulnerable to transformation could escape negative selection. The majority of the V beta 11-positive tumours were CD4- CD8+ and were only observed in mice showing clinical evidence of tumour development at a relatively young age. The phenotype of these cells and the age at which tumours arose suggests that T cells escaping tolerance may be susceptible to transformation.