Our broad aims are to delineate oncogenic events in lymphoid neoplasia and to search for genes that control haemopoietic differentiation. To explore lymphoid neoplasia, we have constructed transgenic mice bearing different oncogenes coupled to the immunoglobulin heavy chain enhancer (E mu), to force expression within lymphocytes. The prototype E mu-myc mice are highly prone to lymphomagenesis, generating pre-B and B cell lymphomas. In their pre-neoplastic phase, E mu-myc expression perturbs B cell development, accelerating the accumulation of pre-B cells. Lymphomagenesis requires additional oncogenic events, such as ras activation, and can be reconstructed in vitro. Transgenic mice bearing the N-myc, N-ras, v-abl and bcr-v-abl oncogenes are also prone to tumours. A striking demonstration that oncogenes can perturb lineage commitment has emerged. Introduction of the v-raf gene into cloned E mu-myc transgenic B cells frequently led to a switch in haemopoietic lineage: the cells became macrophages. Two clues to this remarkable metamorphosis are that the macrophage lines produce a myeloid growth factor and most bear marked karyotypic alterations, perhaps indicating that the balance between a few critical lineage control genes has been disturbed. To explore the hypothesis that genes encoding the DNA-binding homeo box domain participate in haemopoiesis, cDNA libraries from haemopoietic sources were screened, and several distinct homeo box cDNAs were isolated. They revealed a complex pattern of expression among haemopoietic cell lines. These genes are attractive candidates for regulators of haemopoietic differentiation.