The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been classically associated with nasopharyngeal carcinoma and Burkitt's lymphoma, a monoclonal B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Since the EBV genome has also been found in post-transplant lymphomas and lymphomas arising in individuals infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, evidence has now accumulated that EBV might be the initiator of a multi-step process leading from polyclonal B-cell hyperplasias to monoclonal lymphoma. In a retrospective study of 60 T-cell lymphomas of various types, we found EBV DNA in 21 (35%) using Southern- and/or dot-blot techniques. Eight of 14 nodal samples of angio-immunoblastic lymphadenopathy (57%) were shown to harbour detectable EBV DNA. The tumour with the next highest frequency, 47% (7/15 cases analyzed) was pleomorphic T-cell lymphoma, medium- and large-cell type; EBV was found both in nodal and in extranodal lymphomas of this type. Lymphoepitheloid (Lennert's) lymphoma and large-cell anaplastic lymphoma were positive in 2/5 and 3/8, respectively, of the cases analyzed. No viral DNA could be demonstrated in 3 T-immunoblastic and 5 T-lymphoblastic lymphomas. Clonotypic analysis revealed monoclonal as well as oligoclonal virus populations. Our data suggest that, at least in some of these entities, the presence of the EBV genome might be due to secondary mechanisms such as escape from immune surveillance.