Rituximab (Mabthera) and alemtuzumab (Campath(R), Mabcampath(R)) are non-conjugated IgG1 therapeutic monoclonal antibodies directed against the CD20 and CD52 surface antigens respectively. They are presently used in the therapy of indolent B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (B-NHL) and of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, and are thought to act mainly through complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC) and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). Here we have analysed the capacity of these two monoclonal antibodies to lyse cell lines of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)-related B-NHL through either complement activation or antibody-dependent cytotoxicity. Rituximab strongly activated both CDC and ADCC against CD20-positive AIDS-NHL cells lines, inducing up to 60-98% and 20% specific lysis respectively. In contrast, alemtuzumab was a poor activator of CDC, even in the AIDS-NHL cell lines expressing high amounts of CD52, leading to a lysis of only 1-30%, whereas it was at least as strong as rituximab in inducing ADCC of the same lines (up to 30% specific lysis). Altogether, these data offer a first in vitro rationale supporting the therapeutic use of rituximab for CD20-positive AIDS-NHL.