Recently established Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-positive Burkitt's lymphoma (BL) cell lines, carrying chromosomal translocations indicative of their malignant origin, have been monitored for their degree of in vitro progression towards a more 'lymphoblastoid' cell surface phenotype and growth pattern, and for their expression of three EBV latent gene products which are constitutively present in all virus-transformed normal lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs). BL cell lines which stably retained the original tumour biopsy phenotype on serial passage were all positive for the nuclear antigen EBNA 1 but did not express detectable amounts of two other 'transforming' proteins, EBNA 2 and the latent membrane protein (LMP). This novel pattern of EBV gene expression was also observed on direct analysis of BL biopsy tissue. All three viral proteins became detectable, however, in BL cell lines which had progressed towards a more LCL-like phenotype in vitro. This work establishes a link between B cell phenotype and the accompanying pattern of EBV latent gene expression, and identifies a novel type of EBV:cell interaction which may be unique to BL cells.