Gastric low grade MALT lymphomas show a pattern of somatic mutations in their rearranged immunoglobulin genes, indicative of antigen selection. This provides evidence for antigen stimulation in the lymphomagenesis. Gastric diffuse large B cell lymphomas develop secondary to low grade MALT lymphoma or de novo. To study whether antigen-selection is also a feature of primary diffuse large B cell lymphomas, we analysed somatic mutations in the rearranged immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) variable genes (VH). The rearranged VH genes of six cases of gastric primary diffuse large B cell lymphoma were amplified from genomic or complementary DNA by a VH gene family-specific polymerase chain reaction method. The PCR products were directly sequenced and were compared to published germline sequences to analyse somatic mutations. Similarly to low grade MALT lymphomas 5/6 primary diffuse large B cell lymphomas show a pattern of somatic mutation in their rearranged VH genes, indicative of antigen selection and suggesting a role for antigens in lymphomagenesis. One case showed bi-allelic VH gene rearrangements, which were non-functional due to extensive deletions. Antigen selection could not be demonstrated or excluded. Antigen selection is a common feature in most analysed primary diffuse large B cell lymphomas, although some heterogeneity in the mechanisms involved in the lymphomagenesis of gastric primary diffuse large B cell lymphomas has not been excluded entirely (case 4).