The in vivo expression of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) BamHI-A rightward transcripts (BARTs) as well as the putative BART-encoded BARF0 and RK-BARF0 proteins in various EBV-associated malignancies was investigated. RT-PCRs specific for the different splice variants of the BARTs and both a nucleic acid sequence-based amplification assay and an RT-PCR specific for the BARF0 ORF were used. Abundant transcription of BARTs was found in EBV-associated Hodgkin's lymphomas, Burkitt's lymphomas (BL), T-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders, AIDS-related lymphomas and gastric carcinomas. Using RNA in situ hybridization (RISH), BARTs were detected within the neoplastic cells of these malignancies. BARTs encoding RK-BARF0 were not detected. The BARTs detected were shown possibly to encode the RPMS1 and BARF0 proteins, based on their splicing. However, BARTs actually harbouring the BARF0 ORF were detected only in specimens containing a relatively large number of EBV-positive cells. New monoclonal antibodies against the BARF0 protein were generated that efficiently recognized prokaryotic and eukaryotic recombinant BARF0. However, the BARF0 protein was not detected in clinical samples, nor in EBV-positive cell lines, even though these were positive for BARTs by RISH and/or BARF0 RNA in vitro analysis. Using immunoblot analysis, no antibodies against baculovirus-expressed BARF0 protein were detected in the sera of nasopharyngeal carcinoma patients, BL patients and Hodgkin's disease patients, patients with chronic EBV infection, infectious mononucleosis patients or EBV-positive healthy donors. Thus, BARTs containing the BARF0 ORF are expressed in vivo but the BARF0 protein cannot be detected and may be expressed only marginally. It is concluded that the BARF0 protein is unlikely to play a role in vivo in EBV-positive malignancies.