Thirty-two hematologic malignancies--nine with cytogenetically identified 12p abnormalities and 23 with whole or partial losses of chromosome 12--were selected for fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) investigations of 12p. These analyses revealed structural 12p changes, such as translocations, deletions, insertions, inversions and amplification, in 20 cases. ETV6 rearrangements were detected in three acute leukemias. One acute undifferentiated leukemia had t(4;12)(q12;p13) as the sole anomaly. The second case, an acute myeloid leukemia (AML), displayed complex abnormalities involving, among others, chromosomes 9 and 12. The third case, also an AML, had an insertion of the distal part of ETV6 into chromosome arm 11q and into multiple ring chromosomes, which also contained chromosome 11 material, resulting in an amplification of a possible fusion gene. The fusion partners in these cases remain to be identified. Thirty-one additional breakpoints on 12p could be characterized in detail. The majority of these breaks were shown to result in interchromosomal rearrangements, possibly indicating the location of hitherto unrecognized genes of importance in the pathogenesis of hematologic malignancies. The FISH analyses disclosed terminal or interstitial 12p deletions in 18 cases. Seven myeloid malignancies showed deletions restricted to a region, including ETV6 and CDKN1B, which has been reported to be frequently lost in leukemias. In four cases, the deletions involved both these genes, whereas two AML displayed loss of CDKN1B but not ETV6, supporting previously reported findings indicating a region of deletion not including this gene. However, one myelodysplastic syndrome lacked one copy of ETV6 but not CDKN1B. Hence, we suggest a minimal region of deletion on 12p located between the ETV6 and CDKN1B genes.