APO-1 is a cell surface molecule that induces apoptosis when ligated with the monoclonal antibody anti-APO-1. Expression of APO-1 and response to anti-APO-1 was investigated in a number of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-positive and -negative Burkitt lymphoma (BL) cell lines, in EBV-immortalized lymphoblastoid cell lines, and in cells from fresh BL biopsies. APO-1 was not expressed in EBV-negative cell lines and in EBV- positive BL cell lines with a phenotype corresponding to BL tumor biopsy cells (CD10+, CD21-, CD23-, CD30-, CD39-, CDw70-, CD77+). Accordingly, fresh BL cells obtained from three BL biopsies were APO-1 negative. EBV-positive BL cell lines that had acquired a lymphoblastoid phenotype (CD10-, CD21+, CD23+, CD30+, CD39+, CDw70+, CD77-) upon prolonged in vitro cultivation, as well as normal B-lymphoblastoid cell lines, expressed a high density of APO-1. APO-1 may, therefore, be regarded as a B-cell activation marker. APO-1 expression is not the only prerequisite for anti-APO-1-induced apoptosis because 6 of 7 APO-1- expressing EBV-positive BL cell lines were not sensitive to anti-APO-1, whereas all lymphoblastoid cell lines were killed by anti-APO-1. The sensitivity of lymphoblastoid cell lines to anti-APO-1-mediated apoptosis may open a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of EBV- induced lymphoproliferative lesions in immunocompromised individuals, because these are composed of cells with a lymphoblastoid phenotype.