Bovine leukaemia virus (BLV) resides in infected lymphocytes in a latent, repressed state but becomes expressed a few hours after the cells are cultured in vitro. We have identified several conditions and factors affecting the expression of BLV in short-term cultures of naturally infected lymphoid cells. The presence of foetal calf serum in the culture medium greatly stimulates virus expression. This stimulation is not due to cellular proliferation. Transcription of BLV RNA and synthesis of p25 in the cultures of peripheral blood lymphocytes are preceded by a lag period of several hours. Synthesis of BLV p25 in these cultures takes place almost immediately after viral RNA synthesis. Extending previous results, we demonstrate that the plasma and lymphatic fluid of cattle contain factors that suppress and stimulate BLV expression. As a result of systematic examination of several parameters, we have developed reproducible assays for the detection of these factors. It is very likely that their relative concentration in the host is an important determinant of susceptibility and resistance to the development of lymphosarcoma and persistent lymphocytosis in BLV-infected cattle.