Three stages of maturation can be seen in keratinizing nasopharyngeal carcinomas. These stages are similar morphologically to basal cells, intermediate and superficial squamous cells seen in normal squamous epithelium. Taking advantage of such a diverse tumour cell population, 10 keratinizing nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) were examined by in situ hybridization for the presence of latent Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) using EBV encoded RNAs (EBERs) and by immunohistology for the presence of EBV early antigen-diffuse (EA-D) and the 350/220 kd membrane glycoprotein of the EBV. The basal cell-like tumour cells are mainly infected latently with the virus; viral replication was found in isolated intermediate squamous cells, whilst superficial squamous cells are largely depleted of all the viral markers. We used a control series of nonkeratinizing nasopharyngeal carcinomas composed of undifferentiated and poorly differentiated tumour cells and EBV latency was present in these tumours. Viral replication was detected by RT-PCR, in the undifferentiated tumours but viral replication was not seen by immunohistology. The possible relationship between EBV life cycle in these tumours and tumour cell differentiation is discussed in the light of these findings.