The pathogenesis of hematopoietic abnormalities associated with infection of susceptible hosts with either simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is not fully understood. To determine if bone marrow cells are infected with SIV and if the pattern of viral infection is correlated with the severity of disease and abnormalities in hematopoiesis, 23 SIV-infected rhesus monkeys were examined by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. By immunohistochemistry, only four monkeys were positive for SIV core protein p27, while in situ hybridization revealed viral RNA in the bone marrow of 15 monkeys. Simian immunodeficiency virus RNA was consistently expressed in the bone marrow from monkeys with severe lymphoid depletion (11 of 11), but less so in monkeys with follicular hyperplasia (0 of 2) or mild lymphoid depletion (4 of 10). In animals with mild lymphoid depletion, bone marrow cells infected with SIV were mainly mononuclear cells that appeared to be of myelomonocytic lineage. In contrast, monkeys with severe lymphoid depletion had SIV RNA localized to larger mononuclear cells with abundant cytoplasm often located in small lucent areas of the stroma. These SIV RNA-positive mononuclear cells were positive for the macrophage determinant CD68 as demonstrated by immunohistochemistry. Furthermore the stage of simian acquired immune deficiency syndrome, as indicated by lymphoid morphology, and SIV localization in the bone marrow were correlated with the incidence of anemia, bone marrow hyperplasia, and abnormal distribution of macrophages in the bone marrow. These results indicate that, in common with other animal lentiviral infections, the macrophage is a major target of SIV infections in the bone marrow.