Bcl-x is a member of the bcl-2 family of proteins which are characterized by their ability to modulate apoptosis. Alternative splicing results in two distinct bcl-x mRNAs encoding a long isoform, bcl-xL, which acts as a bcl-2 agonist; and a short isoform, bcl-xS, which inhibits bcl-2 effects. The aim of the study was to determine whether bcl-x is expressed in lymphoma tissues and to characterize the respective production of bcl-xs and bcl-xL. We investigated the expression of bcl-x mRNA in a series of 50 non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHL) and Hodgkin's disease (HD) cases using a RT-PCR method in order to amplify both transcripts simultaneously, and to estimate their relative abundance. The rearrangements of the bcl-2 gene were analysed by RT-PCR expression of the hybrid bcl-2-lgH mRNA. In addition, 20 PCR-positive NHL cases and three HD cases were analysed by immunohistochemistry using bcl-x polyclonal antisera. RT-PCR showed bcl-x expression in 43/45 NHLs and 5/5 HD cases. The bcl-xL transcript was predominant in all positive cases and was associated with variable amounts of bcl-xS. There was no significant correlation between the profile of bcl-xL/bcl-xS expression and the histological and immunological subtyping. Bcl-x immunodetection was positive in the neoplastic cell component in all analysed cases, but the degree of staining was highly variable between cases. Expression of the hybrid bcl-2-IgH gene was detected by RT-PCR in five cases of follicular NHL and in one case of HD, but this group of tumours did not display a particular profile of bcl-xL/bcl-xS expression. We conclude that bcl-x is commonly expressed by malignant cells in various types of malignant lymphomas, with a predominance of the bcl-xL transcript. Since the corresponding bcl-xL isoform can block the cell death machinery and potentialize bcl-2 effects, it may be involved in some pathways of lymphomagenesis.