Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection has been associated with the development of accelerated arteriosclerosis in heart transplant recipients. This association prompted the authors to examine, using in situ hybridization techniques, the coronary arteries of 19 patients who had received heart transplants for the presence of CMV nucleic acids. Two probes were employed on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues. The first was an S35-labeled nick translated probe derived from CMV DNA. CMV nucleic acids were identified in the arterial intima of 5 (45%) of 11 transplanted hearts examined with this probe. Hybridization to cells morphologically consistent with endothelial cells, lymphocytes, and smooth muscle cells was identified. Hybridization was not detected in any of the hearts when a control probe, a vector without CMV DNA, was employed. The second probe that was used was a tritium-labeled strand-specific ribo-probe derived from the immediate early (IE1) gene of CMV. Using this second probe, hybridization was detected in the coronary arteries of three of five hearts that were positive with the DNA probe, in one of the hearts that was negative with the DNA probe, and in three (38%) of eight additional transplanted hearts. The pattern of hybridization was the same as that seen with the DNA probe, and no hybridization was detected when a control sense probe for the IE1 gene of CMV was employed. These results suggest that CMV nucleic acids are present in the coronary arteries of heart transplant recipients.