T4 subpopulation of T lymphocytes is the preferential target of infection with human T leukemia/lymphoma virus of subgroup I (HTLV-I). In this study we attempt to determine whether different T-cell subsets exhibit differences in susceptibility to virus infection. T cells from cord or peripheral blood were separated according to cell densities and T-cell surface markers by Percoll gradient and Sepharose anti-Fab immunoadsorbent affinity column (IAC), respectively. Separated T-cell subpopulations were infected with HTLV-I, by means of co-cultivation with irradiated virus producer cell lines (MT-2, TK). Percentages of HTLV-I-infected cells were assayed by immunofluorescence assay (IFA), using highly specific mouse monoclonal antibody (MAb) directed against HTLV-I p19 core protein. The results showed that different T-cell subpopulations separated either by Percoll or by IAC were susceptible to HTLV-I infection with the exception of large granular lymphocytes (LGL), which exhibit high cell-mediated natural cytotoxicity (CMNC). The susceptibility to HTLV-I infection of T cells with CMNC activity was further studied on established cell clones with LGL morphology. The results showed again that these cells were resistant to the virus infection. The present studies indicate that different T-cell subpopulations, irrespective of their size and of cell-surface markers, are susceptible to HTLV-I infection, with the exception of functionally mature LGL or of immortalized LGL clones.