Proliferating B cell lesions developing in a series of immunosuppressed organ transplant recipients and patients with X-linked lymphoproliferative syndrome were examined for Epstein-Barr virus and cellular gene expression using immunocytochemistry and immunoblotting techniques. Results indicate that all the lesions examined from the patients in this series expressed Epstein-Barr virus gene products that were consistent with a latent, nonproductive type of infection. No lytic cycle antigens associated with productive viral infection were detected. This pattern is similar to the viral gene expression in normal B cells immortalized by Epstein-Barr virus in vitro. The demonstration in this study of Epstein-Barr virus viral gene expression in posttransplant and X-linked proliferative syndrome B cell disorders provides important new evidence for the primary role of Epstein-Barr virus in the development of these lesions. This is in contrast to the subsidiary role that the Epstein-Barr virus has in the etiology of Burkitt's lymphoma.