To identify nerve growth factor (NGF) target cells in normal and pathologic human lymphoid tissues, we have studied the expression of the low-affinity NGF receptor (p75LNGFR) and the high-affinity tropomyosin-related kinase NGF receptor (TrkA). A RNAse protection assay revealed the expression of trk transcripts in thymus, spleen, palatine tonsils and lymph nodes. TrkA immunoreactivity was shown in thymic epithelial cells, cryptic tonsillar epithelium and several monocyte-derived cells including epithelioid and multinucleated Langhans' cells, follicular dendritic cells and interdigitated reticular cells. TrkA immunoreactivity was rarely observed in normal T- and B-lymphocytes, but was intense in lymphoma cells of several B-cell lymphoma subtypes, anaplastic large cell lymphomas and Reed-Sternberg cells. Western blot analysis revealed the presence of p75LNGFR and of p80Trk and glycosylated Trk isoforms (gp110, gp140). p75LNGFR immunoreactivity was detected in epithelial Hassal's bodies, follicular dendritic cells, interdigitated reticular cells, periarteriolar macrophages, endothelial sinusal cells and nerve endings. The broad expression of NGF receptors may be an indicator of neurotrophin activity in lymphoid tissues and suggests their implication in inflammatory or lymphoproliferative disorders.