To gain insight into the real incidence of the numeric chromosomal aberrations and the cell lineage involvement of the neoplastic process in multiple myeloma (MM), we examined 18 Chinese MM patients by May-Grunwald-Giemsa (MGG) staining and fluorescence in situ hybridization using three DNA centromeric probes specific for chromosomes 3, 7, and 9. In this investigation, cytogenetic abnormalities were detected in plasma cells (PCs), myeloid cells (MCs), and lymphoid cells (LCs) in all of the MM patients studied. This is the first demonstration of the cytogenetic aberration involved in the myeloid series. Furthermore, the MCs and PCs of 16 MM patients had the same aneuploidies in one or more of the chromosomes analyzed. These data suggest that the neoplastic transformation of MM may occur early in the hematopoietic development. Chromosomal aberrations involving mainly subclones and considerable cellular heterogeneity with gain of a variety of copy numbers of the same chromosome were demonstrated within PCs, which may possibly be the result of an underlying defect of PCs in the control of their number of chromosomes. Whereas PCs showed evidence suggestive of increased polyploidization, MCs and LCs, which exhibited similar chromosomal patterns as the former, rarely did. Thus, the clonal evolution from LC to PC, if that happens in MM, is characterized by chromosomal instability favoring growth of tumor cells with polysomies and polyploidies.