Peripheral or tonsil lymphocyte populations of EBV-seropositive donors give rise to EBV-carrying LCLs upon in vitro explantation. Such lines can arise either by a 2-step mechanism, namely release of virus from some of the explanted cells followed by infection of previously uninfected B cells, or by direct outgrowth of virus-harboring B cells (Rickinson et al., 1974; Dalens et al., 1975; Hinuma and Katsuki 1978; Katsuki et al., 1979). We observed that cells responsible for both the 2-step mechanism and for direct outgrowth are found in the purified B-cell compartment. Virus release was more frequent than direct outgrowth. The majority of virus-releasing cells were found in the low-density fraction that contains large, activated B blasts. Cells that were capable of spontaneous outgrowth in the presence of the viral inhibitor PFA and of virus-neutralizing antibody gave rise to cell lines that carried the sex chromosome marker of the original donor, rather than that of admixed cord blood lymphocyte of the opposite sex. Such cells were found in both the low- and the high-density fractions. The majority of the EBV-carrying B cells in vivo are thus low-density blasts. Rare small B cells of high density harboring EBV were capable of spontaneous outgrowth. This may be indicative of a host control mechanism that is removed upon cultivation in vitro.