The t(1;19)(q23;p13) chromosomal translocation is observed cytogenetically in 25% of children with pre-B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and is associated with an adverse treatment outcome. The t(1;19) juxtaposes the E2A gene from chromosome 19 with the PBX1 gene on chromosome 1, leading to the production of fusion transcripts and resultant chimeric proteins that contain the transcriptional-activating motif of E2A and the DNA-binding homeodomain of PBX1. To investigate the molecular nature of E2A/PBX1 fusion in patients with t(1;19) ALL we used an RNA-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) procedure to amplify a portion of the chimeric transcript. We detected E2A/PBX1 fusion transcripts in cells from 97% (37 of 38) of cases in which the t(1;19) had been observed cytogenetically. Molecular evidence of E2A/PBX1 fusion transcripts was also observed in a patient in whom a t(1;19) was not detected cytogenetically and in one patient with subclinical levels of minimal residual disease before overt clinical relapse. In all PCR-positive cases the junction of E2A and PBX1 coding sequences occurred at precisely the same location as demonstrated by hybridization of PCR products with a fusion site-specific detection oligonucleotide. These findings demonstrate the consistent fusion of E2A and PBX1 coding sequences resulting from t(1;19) and suggest that site-specific fusion of E2A and PBX1 is an important pathogenic event in t(1;19) ALL.