Twenty-one patients with T-prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL) were studied by FISH to characterize abnormalities of chromosomes 8, 11, 14, and X. A higher percentage of abnormalities of these chromosomes was detected by FISH than by cytogenetics. Seventy-one percent had inv(14) (q11q32)/t(14;14)(q11;q32). Four patients had abnormalities involving Xq28 (MTCP-1 locus) resulting from t(X;14)(q28;q11) or t(X;7)(q28;q35). These abnormalities have also been described in persistent expanding pre-malignant T-cell clones in patients with ataxia telangiectasia (AT). We have previously reported that in T-PLL and AT developing T-cell leukemia, the above abnormalities occur with additional abnormalities, mainly trisomy for 8q resulting predominantly from an i(8)(q10) and an increased expression of MYC. In this series, 81% of cases had chromosome 8 abnormalities including i(8)(q10)[43%]/t(8;8)(p12;q11)[14%], + 8[14%], and 8p + [14%]. The use of probes for MYC (8q24) and chromosome 8 centromere on metaphase chromosomes revealed that cases with i(8)(q10) were dicentric and t(8;8) monocentric. These abnormalities are not only associated with increase in dosage of 8q and the MYC gene, but also involved 8p. 8p is known to have several suppressor genes associated with solid tumors. Our findings suggest that the possible loss of a tumor suppressor gene plus the increased dosage of the q arm and/or the high expression of TCL-1/MTCP-1, which results from inv(14)/t(14;14), allows the malignant phenotype to emerge.