The TCL1 oncogene on human chromosome 14q32.1 is involved in chromosome translocations [t(14;14)(q11;q32.1) and t(7;14)(q35;q32.1)] and inversions [inv14(q11;q32.1)] with TCR alpha/beta loci in T-cell leukemias, such as T-prolymphocytic (T-PLL). It is also involved in T- acute and -chronic leukemias arising in cases of ataxia-telangiectasia (AT), an immunodeficiency syndrome. Similar chromosomal rearrangements occur also in the clonally expanded T cells in AT patients before the appearance of the overt leukemia. We have analyzed the expression of TCL1 mRNA and protein in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) from four AT cases and from healthy controls. We found that the TCL1 gene was overexpressed in the PBLs of an AT patient with a large clonal T-cell population exhibiting the t(14;14) translocation but not in the lymphocytes of the other cases. Fluorescence in situ hybridization of the TCL1 genomic locus to lymphocyte metaphases from the AT patient with the T-cell clonal expansion showed that the breakpoint of the t(14;14) translocation lies within the TCL1 locus and is accompanied by an inverted duplication of the distal part of chromosome 14. These data indicate that TCL1 is activated in preleukemic clonal cells as a consequence of chromosome translocation involving sequences from the TCR locus at 14q11. Deregulation of TCL1 is the first event in the initiation of malignancy in these types of leukemias and represents a potential tool for clinical evaluation.