High-grade MALT lymphomas often contain low-grade tumour components; both cell populations have been shown to express the same immunoglobulin light chain previously. However, the clonal link between the low and high-grade components has not been established at the genetic level. To investigate this link, we have examined low- and high-grade components micro-dissected from tissue sections of four high-grade gastric MALT lymphomas. PCR and sequence analyses were performed to identify clone-specific rearranged immunoglobulin heavy chain gene sequences. In each of these cases, the PCR products from the two components were identical in size by electrophoresis. Direct sequencing revealed common clone-specific immunoglobulin heavy chain gene rearrangements in both lesions of each case, providing genetic evidence for a clonal link. These results support the proposal that high-grade MALT lymphomas generally evolve from low-grade clones.