The PAX5 gene encodes the BSAP (B-cell-specific activator protein) which is a key regulator of B-cell development and differentiation. A recurring translocation t(9;14)(p13;q32) in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma moves the PAX5 on 9p13 within close proximity of the immunoglobulin heavy chain gene (IGH). KIS-1 cell line was established from a patient with diffuse large cell lymphoma of B-cell type carrying t(9;14). We analysed PAX5/BSAP expression by Northern and Western blotting in a panel of haematological tumour cell lines with other chromosome abnormalities in comparison with that of KIS-1. PAX5 mRNA and BSAP expression were detected in all B-cell lines tested, and the high level in KIS-1 was confirmed. However, a diffuse large B-cell lymphoma cell line and an acute B-lymphoid/myeloid leukaemia cell line expressed the PAX5/BSAP at levels comparable with KIS-1. PAX5 transcripts were readily detectable in clinical materials with a wide variety of B-cell neoplasms by reverse transcriptase-mediated polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Thus, PAX5/BSAP activation in haematological tumour cells is not necessarily associated with t(9;14). Although binding sites for BSAP have been identified in the promoters of CD19, this study failed to find clear correlation between the level of PAX5/BSAP expression and that of CD19. In contrast to KIS-1 in which the Eμ enhancer of IGH was juxtaposed to PAX5, cloning of t(9;14) from another case by long-distance PCR revealed that the PAX5 promoter was linked to a Cγ constant region in divergent orientation, suggesting that the mechanism of PAX5 activation through recombination with IGH varies among individual cases. Breakpoints on 9p13 of the two translocations were clustered upstream of PAX5, leaving the PAX5 coding region intact.