In order to understand the role of NF-kappaB in EBV transformation we have established stably transfected IkappaBalpha into lymphoblastoid cells. Two clones were obtained in which the loss of NF-kappaB binding activity correlated with the constitutive expression of the transgenic IkappaBalpha. Protein latency expression was determined by immunocytochemistry. Expression of surface markers, intracytoplasmic content of cytokines cell cycle analysis after BrdU incorporation and DNA staining with propidium iodide were studied by flow cytometry. Percentage of apoptotic cells was determined by in-situ labelling of DNA strand breaks. No significative changes in EBV latency nor in cell surface marker expression was found. In contrast, intracytoplasmic TNFalpha levels were strongly reduced in transfected clones. Furthermore, 30% of IkappaBalpha transfected cells were apoptotic after 8 h of TNFalpha treatment. This correlated with a strong reduction of BrdU incorporation after 24 h of TNFalpha treatment. No effect was seen with non transfected cells or with cells transfected with a control plasmid. Our results suggest that the TNFalpha gene could be one of the targets of NF-kappaB in EBV infected cells and that NF-kappaB protects EBV-infected cells from apoptosis induced by TNFalpha, which may favour the proliferative effect of this cytokine.