The recently identified Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), also known as human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8), has been found to be consistently associated with an unusual subset of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome-related lymphomas, the so-called body cavity-based lymphomas (BCBL) or primary effusion lymphomas (PEL). These lymphomas are characterized by a unique spectrum of morphologic and molecular characteristics, and grow as lymphomatous effusions without an identifiable contiguous tumor mass. Until now, efforts to delineate the role of KSHV in the pathogenesis of PELs have been hampered by the lack of appropriate model systems and the concomitant presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in nearly all cases examined, and in all previously established cell lines. We now report the establishment and characterization of a novel PEL cell line, BC-3, which is KSHV+ by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) but EBV- as assessed by a variety of methods including PCR for EBER, EBNA-2, and EBNA-3C. This cell line was established from a lymphomatous effusion obtained from an HIV- patient, and has immunophenotypic and molecular features consistent with the diagnosis of PEL, including an indeterminate immunophenotype with a B-cell immunogenotype and lack of c-myc proto-oncogene rearrangements. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis shows an intact KSHV genome of about 170 kb both in the cell line and in the viral isolate, whereas herpesvirus-like capsids are visible by electron microscopy. Consequently, the BC-3 cell line represents an invaluable tool as a source of KSHV, for both the evaluation of the pathogenic potential of this virus and the mechanistic characterization of its role in the development of Kaposi's sarcoma and malignant lymphoma.