Marginal zone B-cell lymphoma (MZBCL) including extranodal mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT)-type lymphoma, nodal, and splenic MZBCL represents a distinct subtype of B-non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Recently, important progress in the elucidation of the genetic mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis and disease progression of these lymphomas has been made. The API2 gene, an inhibitor of apoptosis, and the novel MLT gene have been found to be altered by the t(11;18)(q21;21), which represents the most frequent structural chromosomal abnormality in extranodal low-grade MALT lymphoma. Another gene involved in the regulation of apoptosis, the BCL10 gene, has been cloned from a MALT lymphoma cytogenetically characterized by the t(1;14)(p22;q32). Along the same lines, inactivating mutations of the proapoptotic FAS gene have been detected in a relatively high proportion of extranodal MZBCLs. Considering these data and the fact that at least some MALT lymphomas show low levels of apoptosis and seem to escape from FAS-mediated apoptosis one may speculate that abrogation of apoptosis constitutes a central pathogenetic mechanism in the development of these lymphomas. The pathogenetic role of trisomy 3, the most frequent numerical chromosomal change of MZBCL, is not known. The minimal overrepresented region has been delineated to 3q21-23 and 3q25-29 using comparative genomic hybridization. The BCL6 proto-oncogene, located on 3q27, which is rearranged in some MZBCL and a high proportion of large cell B-cell lymphomas with extranodal localization, represents one of the candidate genes residing in these critical regions.