The clonal origin of an IgA1 kappa B cell leukemia in a 71-year-old man (WF) was examined using a monoclonal anti-Id antibody and a panel of monoclonal anti-VH antibodies. Immunofluorescent studies revealed that all surface IgA1 kappa + leukemic cells in WF's blood and 10% of the IgM+ B cells in his bone marrow expressed the WF Id. Three percent of the IgA1 kappa + leukemic cells in blood also expressed gamma-chains in their cytoplasm. Approximately 0.1%, 1%, and 10% of bone marrow mononuclear cells, respectively, expressed mu-chains, gamma-chains, and alpha-chains in their cytoplasm, but no detectable light chains or surface immunoglobulins. These mu, gamma, and alpha-positive cells had the convoluted nucleus and narrow cytoplasm characteristic of normal mu+ pre-B cells. Sequential isotype switching among this unusual pre-B population was indicated by co-expression of mu-chains and alpha-chains by 11% and 63%, respectively, of the gamma pre-B cells. These pre-B cells and the surface alpha-chains and cytoplasmic gamma-chains of the leukemic B cells were reactive with one of four monoclonal anti-VH antibodies. The data suggest malignant transformation of the clone before isotype switching, and also imply light chain precommitment at the pre-B cell level of differentiation.