Lymphocytes binding C-reactive protein (CRP) were studied in 31 patients with acute rheumatic fever and 30 controls who were children. Marked elevations in both proportions and absolute numbers of CRP-binding lymphocytes were recorded in rheumatic fever (P less than 0.001). No clear correlation was noted between plasma CRP as quantitated by radioimmunoassay and proportions or numbers of CRP-binding cells. Double-labeling experiments indicated that 60-80% of CRP-binding lymphocytes also showed Fc receptors reacting with fluorescein-conjugated IgG aggregates. Passage of lymphocytes over Ig--anti-IgG columns, removed cells bearing surface Ig but not CRP-binding lymphocytes. Studies of T-cell subpopulations indicated no overlap between Tmicron- and CRP-binding cells; however about half of Tgamma-cells showed concurrent CRP binding. "Active" T-cell rosetting cells did not bind CRP. A 12-15-h incubation of lymphocytes at 37 degrees C in 5% CO2-air showed persistence of CRP binding in substantial proportions of cells particularly in acute rheumatic fever. CRP-binding lymphocytes may represent a marker for immunologically committed cells in acute rheumatic fever.