We report the presence of reverse transcriptase activity in the supernatant of long-term culture of mononuclear blood cells (monocytes and lymphocytes) isolated from a 27-year-old patient suffering from benign osteopetrosis. The enzyme was purified to homogeneity according to the technique of Chandra and Steel, by chromatography, first on DEAE-cellulose (DE 52) and then on phosphocellulose (P11). After purification, the enzyme was characterized biochemically for its template specificity and ionic requirements. The purified enzyme was able to transcribe poly(rA).(dT)12-18 and poly(rC).(dG)12-18 very efficiently and had a marked preference for Mg2+ ions over Mn2+ ions. The pattern of ionic dependency for this enzyme is similar to that of reverse transcriptases purified from human lymphotropic viruses. The patient was tested and found sero-negative for HIV-1, HIV-2, and HTLV-I and seropositive (immunoglobulin G) for cytomegalovirus. Epstein-Barr virus nuclear antigens (EBNA) were detected in the patient's B lymphocytes. Since reverse transcriptase is the hallmark of retroviruses, we suggest that a retrovirus may be involved in the etiology of osteopetrosis.