Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) has been described as a potent inhibitor of various cell types, among others of primitive haematopoietic progenitors in vitro, and as a negative autocrine regulator of normal B lymphocyte growth and differentiation. In the present study we investigated TGF-beta gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and in B cells from patients with B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (B-CLL) and from normal controls. Monocyte depleted B-CLL cells expressed constitutively mRNA for TGF-beta 1 and secreted low amounts of TGF-beta activity into the culture medium. Stimulation of cells by phorbol ester noticeably enhanced mRNA levels as well as protein secretion in most cases. TGF-beta activity was of the same magnitude as in normal controls. We next analysed TGF-beta in highly enriched B lymphocytes from B-CLL (95-100% CD19+), and found that TGF-beta secretion was up to 3 times higher than in the original PBMC population. It is discussed that B-CLL cells might escape from negative regulation by TGF-beta and, on the other hand, inhibit normal haematopoietic cell proliferation and thereby achieve a growth advantage in the haematopoietic tissues.