Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is transmitted through saliva, but the cellular source is controversial. Putative reservoirs include oral epithelium and salivary glands. Tongue mucosal samples, salivary glands, and tongue carcinomas were studied, by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, for evidence of EBV infection. EBV replication was seen in 1.3% of tongue mucosal samples. No latent infection was found at this site. EBV infection was detected neither in normal salivary glands nor in tongue carcinomas. Thus, EBV replication occurs infrequently in tongue epithelial cells, and salivary glands are unlikely to harbor EBV. EBV is unlikely to be involved in the pathogenesis of tongue cancer.