Mantle cell lymphoma represent a clinicopathologically distinct entity of malignant non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and are characterized by a specific chromosomal translocation t(11;14)(q13;q32) involving the cyclin D1 gene also designated as bcl-1/PRAD1 gene on chromosome 11 and the heavy chain immunoglobulin joining region on chromosome 14. We have established a PCR method to amplify t(11;14) junctional sequences in DNA from fresh frozen and paraffin-embedded tissue by bcl-1-specific primers in combination with a consensus immunoglobulin JH primer. A total of 65 cases histologically classified as mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) were analyzed for the presence of a t(11;14) translocation and monoclonal IgH-CDR3 rearrangements. From 26 patients with classical MCL and three cases with the anaplastic variant of MCL fresh frozen biopsy material was available for DNA extraction. We detected a bcl-1/JH rearrangement in 12 out of 29 samples (41%). In 36 cases paraffin-embedded lymph node tissue was the only source of DNA. In this material we found a bcl-1/JH rearrangement in six out of 31 samples with intact DNA (20%). To confirm the specificity of the PCR and to determine the bcl-1/JH junctional region sequences as clone-specific marker in individual patients we characterized the junctional DNA sequences by direct PCR sequencing in 16 cases. Interestingly we found that six bcl-1/JH junctions harbored DH segments in their N regions indicating that bcl-1/JH rearrangements can occur in a later stage of B cell ontogeny during which the complete VH to DH-JH joining or VH-replacement takes place. To investigate the suitability of IgH-CDR3 as sensitive molecular marker for those MCL patients in which a t(11;14) translocation can not easily be amplified, we additionally analysed 60 cases for the presence of monoclonally rearranged IgH genes by IgH-CDR3-PCR. A monoclonal IgH-CDR3 PCR product could be identified in 24 out of 29 fresh frozen samples (79%) whereas only 11 out of 31 samples (36%) with paraffin-derived DNA were positive. We demonstrate that automated fluorescence detection of monoclonal IgH-CDR3 PCR products allows the rapid and sensitive monitoring of minimal residual disease also in cases that lack a PCR amplifiable t(11;14) translocation. In combination with allele-specific primers the procedure may improve current experimental approaches for detection of occult MCL cells at initial staging and residual disease during and after therapy.