Phenotypically distinct human B cell lines display two transcriptionally distinct forms of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) latency. Latency I (Lat I) in group I Burkitt's lymphoma (BL) cell lines is characterized by selective expression of the virus-coded nuclear antigen EBNA 1 from a uniquely spliced mRNA driven by the Fp promoter. Latency III (Lat III) in group III BL and EBV-transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) is characterized by expression of EBNAs 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 3c, and -LP from mRNAs driven by the Cp or Wp promoter and of the latent membrane proteins (LMPs 1, 2A, and 2B) from mRNAs driven by the LMP promoters. Here we have altered the group I BL and LCL phenotypes by cell hybridization and screened for attendant changes in EBV latency by PCR analysis of viral mRNAs and immunoblotting of viral proteins. Fusion of group I BL cells with LCLs activated the BL virus genome from a Lat I to Lat III pattern of gene expression. Fusion of LCLs with nonlymphoid lines repressed virus gene expression from Lat III either to Lat I or to another form of latency (Lat II) hitherto not seen in vitro and characterized by selective expression of the Fp-driven EBNA 1 mRNA and of the LMP 1, 2A, and 2B transcripts. There are therefore three forms of EBV latency which can be interconverted by altering cellular phenotype and thereby virus promoter usage.