We previously reported that the BARF1 (BamH1-A right frame 1) gene product from Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) may have oncogenic properties since injection into new-born rats of transfected cell lines resulted in the development of BARF1 expressing tumors, which were aggressive in the case of murine fibroblasts and transient in that of human B lymphocytes. As EBV has been associated with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) and evidence of BARF1 transcription in this cancer was emerging from our biopsy analyses, we examined the effects of BARF1 transfection into primate primary epithelial cells. The expression of the BARF1 open reading frame in primary monkey kidney epithelial cells led us to the establishment of continuously dividing lines. The BARF1 transfectants showed the major characteristics of immortalized cells: morphological change, short cell doubling time, ability to divide at low cell density and continuous growth over 50 passages. Injection of BARF1 transfectants into nude mice did not induce any tumor. Established subclones were shown to be epithelial cells expressing known keratins as well as the BARF1 coded mRNA and protein. This is the first report indicating that expression of the BARF1 gene product in primary epithelial cells may contribute to the establishment of cell lines.