CD70, a type II transmembrane glycoprotein, is a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family that mediates the interaction between B- and T-lymphocytes. CD70 has been shown to be expressed by malignant lymphoma, especially Hodgkin's disease, and by nasopharyngeal carcinoma, both of which are frequently associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). In this study, we investigated the expression of CD70 in epithelial cells of various types of thymic epithelial tumors and its association with EBV. Immunohistochemical expression of CD70 was studied on frozen tissue. In a series of 27 thymic epithelial tumors, including thymic carcinomas (n = 8), atypical thymomas (n = 5), thymomas (n = 13), and thymic carcinoid (n = 1), 7 (88%) thymic carcinomas and 1 (20%) atypical thymoma showed positive immunoreactivity for CD70, whereas CD70 was not detected in other tumors. Twenty-four intrathoracic malignant epithelial tumors of nonthymic origin, including lung (n = 17), esophagus (n = 5), and mesothelium (n = 2), showed no immunoreactivity for CD70. Northern blot analysis also revealed that CD70 messenger RNA was expressed in 2 of 2 thymic carcinomas, 0 of 2 atypical thymomas. and 0 of 2 thymomas. All of the 27 thymic epithelial tumors were EBV-negative as assessed by EBV-encoded small RNA in situ hybridization. The expression of CD70 is closely related to the pathogenesis of thymic carcinoma but unrelated to EBV infection in the thymus.