OBJECTIVE--To determine the relationship of human papillomavirus (HPV) type to grade of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) in a large series of cases. DESIGN--A survey of HPV types in CIN lesions detected using a new, highly accurate method for typing HPV that is based on restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of amplimers produced during polymerase chain amplification of the conserved L1 region of HPV using consensus primers. SETTING--Private gynecologists' offices and inner-city colposcopy clinics. PATIENTS--A convenience sample of 276 HPV DNA-positive cervical biopsy specimens or samples from patients undergoing colposcopy for abnormal Papanicolaou smears. INTERVENTION--None. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S)--Human papillomavirus type(s). RESULTS--Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 1 lesions were relatively heterogeneous with regard to associated HPV types. Nineteen percent of CIN 1 lesions were associated with HPV types 6 or 11; 29% contained HPV types 16, 18, or 33; and 19% were associated with "novel types" of HPV. It was also found that 22% of CIN 1 lesions were associated with more than one HPV type. In contrast to CIN 1, both CIN 2 and CIN 3 were relatively homogeneous with regard to associated HPV types. Eighty-eight percent of CIN 2 and 3 lesions contained HPV types 16, 18, or 33. Unlike CIN 1 lesions, which often contained multiple types of HPV, only 7% of CIN 2 and 3 lesions were associated with multiple HPV types. CONCLUSIONS--Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia should be classified into two separate categories--low-grade and high-grade CIN. Since only 29% of low-grade lesions are associated with HPV types 16, 18, or 33, HPV type could potentially play a role in determining the most appropriate clinical management of patients with low-grade CIN. However, prospective follow-up studies of lesional behavior based on HPV type are required before clinical recommendations can be made.