For long, T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) remained in the shadow of precursor B-ALL because it was more seldom, and showed a normal karyotype in more than 50% of cases. The last decennia, intense research has been carried out on different fronts. On one side, development of normal thymocyte and its regulation mechanisms have been studied in multiple mouse models and subsequently validated. On the other side, molecular cytogenetics (fluorescence in situ hybridization) and mutation analysis revealed cytogenetically cryptic aberrations in almost all cases of T-ALL. Also, expression microarray analysis disclosed gene expression signatures that recapitulate specific stages of thymocyte development. Investigations are still very much actual, fed by the discovery of new genetic aberrations. In this review, we present a summary of the current cytogenetic changes associated with T-ALL. The genes deregulated by translocations or mutations appear to encode proteins that are also implicated in T-cell development, which prompted us to review the 'normal' and 'leukemogenic' functions of these transcription regulators. To conclude, we show that the paradigm of multistep leukemogenesis is very much applicable to T-ALL and that the different genetic insults collaborate to maintain self-renewal capacity, and induce proliferation and differentiation arrest of T-lymphoblasts. They also open perspectives for targeted therapies.