Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) strains can be classified into four genotypes of the glycoprotein B (gB). In a previous study, the gB genotype 1 was found more frequently in bone marrow transplant recipients with nonfatal HCMV infection than in patients who died from HCMV disease [Fries et al. (1994): Journal of Infectious Diseases 169:769-774]. The distribution and cell tropism of different gB types in vivo were investigated. The gB type of HCMV was determined in blood or urine specimen from 76 organ and 47 bone marrow transplant recipients using PCR and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP). The leukocyte populations (polymorphonuclear leukocytes, monocytes, T lymphocytes, non-T lymphocytes) of 20 viremic patients were purified by a fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS) and examined for HCMV infection by PCR. Sequence analysis of four randomly selected strains showed that gB types were similar to published sequences and no atypical gB types were found. Within the compartments blood and urine, the gB types were almost equally distributed, whereas the gB type 1, in contrast to gB types 2 and 3, did not infect T lymphocytes in vivo. These data show that the gB type correlates with viral tropism in vivo and thus provides further evidence that the gB variation may indeed influence the virulence of HCMV.