Lymphocytic interstitial pneumonitis (LIP) and nonspecific interstitial pneumonitis (NIP) are pulmonary complications of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection that occur in the absence of a detectable opportunistic infection or neoplasm. We reviewed lung biopsy specimens from 50 adult HIV-infected patients, of whom four had LIP and 46 had NIP. The majority (47 of 50) of specimens from patients with NIP showed mild chronic interstitial pneumonitis (CIP/NIP), with three showing features of diffuse alveolar damage, organizing phase. In contrast to CIP/NIP, the five specimens from four patients with LIP demonstrated more extensive lymphocytic interstitial infiltrates that extended into the alveolar septal interstitium. The majority of the interstitial lymphocytes in both NIP and LIP were of T-cell origin and stained for UCHL-1. The etiologies of NIP and LIP remain unknown. Since the common opportunistic infections were excluded by routine methods, we sought, with special techniques, to investigate whether HIV, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), or cytomegalovirus (CMV) could be identified in lung biopsy specimens from these patients. By in situ hybridization, we found one LIP specimen with expression of large amounts of HIV RNA primarily within macrophages in germinal centers; in the remaining specimens, occasional cells expressing HIV RNA were found (two LIP and four NIP). Neither CMV nor EBV was found by in situ hybridization in seven specimens; in these same specimens EBV was detected using the polymerase chain reaction in only one case of NIP, similar to results in control specimens. These results, together with the knowledge that lymphocytic pulmonary lesions may be caused by lentiviruses in humans and animals, suggest that HIV plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of both NIP and LIP in adult HIV-infected patients; in contrast, our data do not demonstrate a direct role for either EBV or CMV.