The CTLA4 receptor is a CD28 homologue which induces inhibitory effect on activated T-cells. Peripheral T-cells proliferate spontaneously in CTLA4-deficient mice. These results led to an analysis of CTLA4 expression in human lymphomas (n = 82) including Hodgkin's disease (HD) and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHLs), using immunohistochemistry. CTLA4 was present in neoplastic cells from most (10/11) T-cell malignancies, except for anaplastic and lymphoblastic subtypes (0/4). Malignant B-cells from rare (3/55) B-NHLs (all of follicular subtype) were also CTLA4-positive. Other B-NHLs (52/55) were negative in malignant B-cells and occasionally positive in T-cells. Reactive small lymphocytes, but not Reed-Sternberg cells, from all (12/12) HD cases were strongly CTLA4-positive. The CTLA4 ligands CD80 and CD86 were simultaneously expressed in most CTLA4-negative lymphoma cases. CTLA4 is thus expressed either in the reactive or in the malignant cell populations, depending on the lymphoma subtype. These results provide new insights leading towards therapeutic strategies based either on enhancement of anti-tumour immunity by CTLA4 blockade in reactive lymphocytes or on triggering of a CTLA4-mediated inhibitory pathway in lymphoma cells.