To test the possibility that interleukin-9 (IL-9), the human homologue of the mouse T-cell growth factor P40, may be involved in the pathogenesis of human lymphomas, we examined IL-9 expression in a variety of tumors both by Northern blot analysis and by in situ hybridization. Of 18 B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphomas and 11 peripheral T- cell lymphomas, none expressed IL-9 message. By contrast, IL-9 message was found in two of six cases of large cell anaplastic lymphoma (LCAL) and in 6 of 13 cases of Hodgkin's disease (HD). In HD the strongest signals were observed in Hodgkin (H) and Sternberg-Reed (SR) cells, but IL-9 mRNA was also detected in small lymphocytic cells. A search for IL- 9 message in a panel of 20 cell lines derived both from hematopoietic and nonhematopoietic tumors confirmed the unique association of IL-9 expression with HD and LCAL in as much as the only two cell lines with IL-9 message were derived from cases of HD and LCAL. These results suggest that IL-9 is not involved as an autocrine growth factor in the pathogenesis of most B- and T-cell lymphomas, but that it may play a role in HD and LCAL.