The reactive cell population in Hodgkin's disease consists of predominantly CD4+ helper T cells and lacks CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells. This lack of a CD8+ response is surprising in view of the expression of the latent Epstein-Barr viral protein LMP by Reed-Sternberg cells in many cases of Hodgkin's disease, Deficient HLA class I expression would be one possible mechanism to avoid a CD8+ cytotoxic immune response. To test this possibility we studied the expression of HLA class I and II determinants on Reed-Sternberg cells in tissue sections and cell suspensions of Hodgkin's disease. Frozen tissue sections of 40 cases and cytocentrifuge preparations from cell suspensions of 10 lymph nodes involved by Hodgkin's disease were studied with monoclonal antibodies reactive with HLA determinants. As a control frozen tissue sections of two cases of infectious mononucleosis were studied. Careful examination of the tissue sections and subsequently of cytospins of cell suspensions showed that the Reed-Sternberg cells frequently lacked HLA class I but showed strong staining for HLA class II. Absence of HLA class I expression on Reed-Sternberg cells and their variants provides an explanation for the lack of a CD8+ cytotoxic immune response against antigens expressed on Reed-Sternberg cells.