Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) with a chromosome 12-specific pericentromeric probe was performed in 42 patients with B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and in 10 patients with hairy cell leukemia (HCL). In all cases, a normal karyotype in more than 10 metaphase cells was obtained by conventional chromosome study. FISH documented that 6/42 patients with CLL in fact had trisomy 12 in 15-49% interphase cells. Sequential FISH studies were performed in 2 cases, showing an increase of percentage of trisomic cells over a 2-month to 4-year period. Two out of 10 patients with HCL, one of whom had morphologic features consistent with a diagnosis of HCL variant, showed 5.5 and 10% interphase nuclei with three fluorescent signals, a finding suggestive of the presence of trisomy 12. Combined immunophenotyping and FISH staining in these patients with HCL documented that trisomic cells were CD11c-positive, CD13-negative, and CD2-negative. We conclude that FISH is a sensitive technique allowing for the detection of trisomy 12 in a fraction of cytogenetically normal patients affected with CLL and HCL.