Using high-resolution genomic microarray analysis, a distinct genomic profile was defined in 114 samples from patients with splenic marginal zone lymphoma (SMZL). Deletion or uniparental disomy of chromosome 7q were detected in 42 of 114 (37%) SMZLs but in only nine of 170 (5%) mature B-cell lymphomas (P < 0·00001). The presence of unmutated IGHV, genomic complexity, 17p13-TP53 deletion and 8q-MYC gain, but not 7q deletion, correlated with shorter overall survival of SMZL patients. Mapping studies narrowed down a commonly deleted region of 2·7 Mb in 7q32.1-q32.2 spanning a region between the SND1 and COPG2 genes. High-throughput sequencing analysis of the 7q32-deleted segment did not identify biallelic deletions/insertions or clear pathogenic gene mutations, but detected six nucleotide changes in IRF5 (n = 2), TMEM209 (n = 2), CALU (n = 1) and ZC3HC1 (n = 1) not found in healthy individuals. Comparative expression analysis found a fourfold down-regulation of IRF5 gene in lymphomas with 7q32 deletion versus non-deleted tumours (P = 0·032). Ectopic expression of IRF5 in marginal-zone lymphoma cells decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis in vitro, and impaired lymphoma development in vivo. These results show that cryptic deletions, insertions and/or point mutations inactivating genes within 7q32 are not common in SMZL, and suggest that IRF5 may be a haploinsufficient tumour suppressor in this lymphoma entity.