A hairy-cell leukaemia (HCL) cell line, HCL-O, was established from the peripheral blood of a 62-year-old Japanese patient with a unique variant of HCL strongly expressing CD21, the receptor for the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The HCL-O cells expressed antigens similar and dissimilar to those expressed with the original hairy cells. The HCL-O cells were more mature than the original cells in their degree of B-cell differentiation, as indicated by a decrease of CD19 and surface immunoglobulin (slg) expression together with the appearance of CD38 and cytoplasmic Ig (clg). In addition, the cells expressed CDllc recognized by Leu-M5, a monoclonal antibody usually positive for HCL. Their karyotype and Ig gene rearrangement pattern were identical to those of the original cells. The EBV genome was detected in the HCL-O cells but not in the original cells. The HCL-O cells spontaneously produced a large quantity of in-terleukin-6 (IL-6) in the conditioned medium, whereas IL-6 serum level was not so high. These findings indicate that the HCL-O cell line is derived from the leukaemic hairy cells and possibly, in vitro EBV infection took place easily in the original hairy cells through their CD21, resulting in subsequent immortalization. IL-6 production by HCL-O cells may be induced or enhanced by EBV, and the secreted IL-6 might play a role in their own growth or differentiation.