Two types of Philadelphia (Ph') chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemias (ALL) have been described. One shows rearrangements within the 5.8 kb breakpoint cluster region (bcr), which forms the mid-portion of the bcr gene, on chromosome 22, while the other carries rearrangements involving a more proximal region on chromosome 22. To understand the nature of the breakpoints on chromosome 22 in bcr rearrangement negative, Ph'-positive ALLs, we have cloned and sequenced the cDNA of the c-abl oncogene in such ALL cells. The 5' ends of the cDNA clones correspond to the normal sequences of the bcr gene first exon with two of the clones extending beyond the GCCATGG consensus sequence for the initiation of translation. The bcr sequence stops at nucleotide 1813 of the coding sequence of the bcr gene, while the c-abl sequence starts at the beginning of the second c-abl exon (nucleotide 227). Thus the joining point between bcr and c-abl is at the boundary between two exons, suggesting intronic fusion and the occurrence of a splicing event. Our current observations indicate that the Ph' translocation in bcr negative ALL involves bcr gene sequences, albeit only a proximal portion of those involved in CML. These genomic differences may be important factors in the pathogenesis of the distinct phenotypes of ALL and CML.