A radioimmunoassay (RIA) has been developed and used to determine the expression of LMP-a membrane protein encoded by the LT3 region of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genome-in cell lines of various origins. The RIA was highly sensitive, specific and reproducible. All EBV-negative cell lines were LMP-negative and 18 of 21 EBV-carrying cells were LMP-positive. LMP concentrations varied widely, ranging approximately from less than 4 ng up to 650 ng/mg protein. In several instances comparisons were made between lymphoblastoid (LCLs) and Burkitt lymphoma (BL) cell lines (EBV-positive or EBV-converted sublines of originally EBV-negative BL) originating from the same patient. In all such cases LMP and LMP-specific mRNA levels were higher in the LCLs. Most of the LMP was found in the cytosol fraction, yet this fraction was negative in immunoblotting tests. However, antiserum preincubated with the cytosol lost its ability to react in immunoblotting with membrane LMP, indicating that the 2 LMP forms (membrane and cytosol) are completely cross-reactive.