Using the polymerase chain reaction we examined for specific Ig kappa-L chain V region gene (V kappa gene) rearrangement in small lymphocytic non-Hodgkin's lymphomas that express Ig bearing a major kappa-L chain associated cross-reactive Id, designated 17.109. Previously, we identified the 17.109-cross-reactive Id in chronic lymphocytic leukemia as a serologic marker for expression of a highly conserved V kappa gene, designated Humkv325. Using sense-strand oligonucleotides specific for the 5'-end of this V kappa gene and antisense oligonucleotide specific for a J kappa region consensus sequence, we could amplify specifically Humkv325 when juxtaposed with J kappa through Ig gene rearrangement. This allowed us to amplify rearranged V kappa genes from DNA isolated from minute amounts of lymphoma biopsy material for molecular analyses. Our studies demonstrate that 17.109-reactive SL NHL, with or without associated CLL, rearrange, and presumably express, Humkv325 without substantial somatic diversification. Our data suggest that malignant B cells in SL NHL, in contrast to NHL of follicular center cell origin, may express immunoglobulin variable region genes with little or no somatic hypermutation.