Configurations of Ig gene DNA were examined in multiple biopsy specimens from seven cases of human B cell lymphoma that showed histologic differences among the specimens within each case. Analysis by Southern blot hybridizations with DNA probes for each of the three Ig loci revealed that the configurations of DNA within these loci were identical among the specimens in two of the cases. This result indicated the monoclonality of these lymphomas, despite differences in histology between biopsy specimens. In contrast, no common nongermline configurations of Ig gene DNA were detected among multiple biopsies in each of three other cases. Therefore, different histologies correlated with separate clones of proliferating B cells in these cases. In the last two cases, the configurations of light chain gene DNA were the same among biopsies in each case, consistent with a monoclonal origin in both lymphomas. However, differences were detected in the configuration of the heavy chain gene DNA. Analysis with a series of DNA probes of the mu heavy chain region indicated that the differences in the DNA configurations of the heavy chain genes from the biopsies probably arose from postrearrangement deletions of either the switch or constant regions of the mu gene. These studies indicate that, contrary to the conventional belief, individual tumors that contain different histologic types of lymphoma within the same patient frequently arise from separate clones of neoplastic cells. Furthermore, the heavy chain genes of monoclonal tumors may show postrearrangement deletions, often resulting from instability of DNA sequences within or around the mu switch region.

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