Three transplantable nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) tumors, designated C15, C17 and C18, have been obtained and characterized. C15, derived from a primary NPC tumor, has been propagated in nude mice for 30 passages. C17 and C18, derived from metastatic NPC tissue, have been passaged 10 times. Desmosomes, present in every case, provided confirmation of the epithelial origin of all 3 tumors. The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genome is contained in C15, C18 and C17 tumor cells with 30, 12 and 3 copies, respectively. The Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigen (EBNA) was stained by the classical anti-complement immunofluorescence (ACIF) technique. Fluorescence intensity was strong in C15, moderate in C18, and hardly detectable in C17 cells. No expression of the EA and VCA antigens was detected. Flow cytometry analysis performed on monocellular suspensions showed the absence of detectable CR2 molecules (the EBV receptor on B lymphocytes) in all 3 tumors, and the constitutive expression of HLA class-II antigens in C15 and C17 cells. IL-1 activity was demonstrated in the supernatant of C15 and C17 cells cultivated in vitro for 3 days. These data confirm that the constitutive synthesis of MHC class-II molecules and the release of IL-1-like activities are frequent features of NPC cells. These characteristics could be of importance in relation with the T-cell infiltrate found in NPC primary tumors.