Using the clone-specific rearrangement of the T cell receptor gene as the genetic marker of the clonotype, we analyzed the clonal origin of the interleukin 2 (IL-2)-dependent human T-lymphotrophic virus I (HTLV-I)-positive T cell lines established from various adult T cell leukemia (ATL) patients. From a patient with chronic ATL, whose leukemic cells proliferated in vitro in response to IL-2, we repeatedly established leukemic T cell clones having the same rearrangement profile of the T beta chain gene as the leukemic cells. By contrast, established cell lines from acute ATL patients had different beta chain gene rearrangements from those of the leukemic cells. These HTLV-I+ T cell lines might not be the direct progeny of the leukemic cells, but that of T cells infected either in vivo or in vitro. These IL-2-reactive nonleukemic T cells might have been selected in vitro, because their leukemic cells failed to respond to IL-2, despite the expression of IL-2 receptor. The analysis of the T cell receptor gene rearrangement may give a new approach for the elucidation of the mechanism of leukemogenesis and the origin of the HTLV-I+ T cell lines in ATL.