Commonly observed in lymphoid neoplasms, deletions of 6q have been correlated with histologic and clinical subsets of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). Our recent analysis of loss of heterozygosity of 6q loci in NHL showed two regions of minimal molecular deletion (RMD), an RMD1 at 6q25-27 and an RMD2 at 6q21-23. To establish correlations between these RMDs and regions of minimal cytogenetic deletions (RCDs) on 6q, and to define associations between RCDs and clinico-pathologic features, we have analyzed chromosome 6 abnormalities in 459 consecutively ascertained, karyotypically abnormal cases of NHL. Among these, 126 (27.5%) cases had structural abnormalities of chromosome 6, of which 94 were deletions. Analysis of these deletions identified three RCDs. An RCD1 encompassing 6q25-27 was seen in 45 intermediate-grade NHL. An RCD2 at 6q21 was observed in 11 high-grade NHL, 9 of which were of the immunoblastic subtype. An RCD3 at 6q23 was noted in 18 low-grade NHL lacking a t(14;18) translocation. Of these 18 cases, 12 were small lymphocytic NHL and, in 2 of these, del(6q) was the sole karyotypic abnormality. In 20 cases of low-grade NHL with t(14;18), the deletions spanned both RCD1 and RCD3. These data suggested the presence of at least 3 tumor suppressor genes on 6q within RCD1, RCD2, and RCD3; they also showed associations between RCDs in 6q and subsets of NHL, including a specific association between a group of well-differentiated lymphoid neoplasms and RCD3. The apparent heterogeneity of breakpoints when all NHLs are considered together explains the inability of previous studies to reliably establish correlations between recurring 6q deletions and histologic and clinical features of NHL.