Blast cells in acute leukemia and lymphoma appear to be "frozen" at various stages of lymphoid cell differentiation. The enzymatic and antigenic phenotypes expressed by these cells often correspond to the gene products of their normal precursors. We have used various immunocytochemical and enzymatic techniques to identify membrane, nuclear, and cytoplasmic markers associated with the prolactin-dependent Nb2 lymphoma cell line. The Nb2 cells, whether stationary or in log-phase growth, did not express any surface immunoglobulin. However, 100% of the Nb2 cells bound both a monoclonal antibody raised to rat thymocyte W3/25-HLK, which specifically binds an antigenic determinant on rat T-helper cells, and second monoclonal antibody OX8-HL, which identifies rat nonhelper T-cells. Transmission electron microscopy showed no evidence of phagocytic vacuoles, and activity of the lysosomal enzyme muramidase was also absent. There was no evidence of the DNA polymerase enzyme terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase. alpha-Naphthyl acetate esterase activity was indicated in about 50% of the Nb2 cells by a faint particulate cytoplasmic staining similar to that found in thymocytes. Rosette formation with guinea pig erythrocytes, a property of mature rat thymocytes, was not observed with Nb2 cells. The data suggest that the Nb2 tumor may have arisen from a thymocyte at an intermediate stage of differentiation. The presence of Thy-like alpha-naphthyl acetate esterase pattern and the binding of both W3/25-HLK and OX8-HL support the thymic origin and relative immaturity of these lymphoid cells. It is becoming increasingly apparent that a significant proportion of lymphomas and leukemias also originate in undifferentiated thymic cels.