Pneumocystis carinii (PC) has been recognized as frequently responsible for most opportunistic pulmonary infections occurring in immunocompromised AIDS and non-AIDS patients. Moreover, these patients can be considered at risk for secondary pulmonary alveolar proteinosis. Therefore, we have investigated the occurrence of associated secondary alveolar proteinosis and PC pneumonitis in AIDS and non-AIDS immunocompromised patients. In a series of 26 bronchoalveolar lavages (BAL) in patients with PC pneumonitis (19 AIDS and seven non-AIDS patients), we observed on light microscopy, in addition to the honeycombed material, areas of an extracellular material that had a different pattern which was suggestive of that described in alveolar proteinosis. A systematic ultrastructural study of these 26 BAL fluid samples demonstrated in each of them an accumulation of phospholipid surfactantlike extracellular material mixed or not with the PC cysts. In nine cases, the observation of lipoproteinaceous material on light microscopy and abundant phospholipid material with myelinlike and myelin tubular laminated structures on electron microscopy was highly suggestive of an associated pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP). Such an accumulation of extracellular material was not observed in the 11 BAL fluid samples collected in immunocompromised patients (seven AIDS and four non-AIDS patients) without PC pneumonitis. These findings demonstrated a particular frequency of associated PAP with PC pneumonitis. These results raise important questions concerning (1) the consequence of such an alveolar accumulation of lipoproteinaceous material on the clinical status and prognosis of the pneumonitis, and (2) the mechanisms responsible for this accumulation.