This study has investigated the presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in parotid (n = 12), submandibular (n = 15), and minor salivary glands (n = 25) using immunohistochemical methods for detection of EBV-encoded antigens and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for detection of viral DNA. Major salivary glands were from patients without connective tissue disease. Labial glands were from patients with primary Sjogren's syndrome (n = 10), rheumatoid arthritis (n = 8), or from normal individuals (n = 7). None of the glands exhibited specific reactivity for lytic (EA-D, EA-R, VCA) or latent (EBNA-2, LMP) viral antigens. Antibodies to EA-D, when used at 20-50 times their optimal concentration, gave lumenal staining of ducts and acini of all the specimens tested (n = 14), irrespective of the presence (n = 8) or absence (n = 6) of EBV-DNA by PCR. Ductal immunoreactivity for the EBV/C3d (CR2, CD21) receptor was found in 40 per cent of specimens. PCR detected EBV-DNA in 64 per cent submandibular, 46 per cent parotid, and 80 per cent of minor glands. There were no significant differences in the detection of EBV-DNA between specimen/patient groups. Only type A EBV was detected by strain typing PCR. These results indicate that EBV (type A), undetected immunocytochemically, is commonly present at low copy numbers within salivary glands irrespective of a clinical diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome.