The relationship between the occurrence of cryoglobulins and hepatitis C virus (HCV) productive infection in peripheral blood and bone marrow-derived lymphocytes was explored. HCV minus strand RNA, the viral replicative intermediate, was searched for by a polyA+ tract strand-specific Tth-based reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR) in lymphoid cells of 46 patients with acute and chronic infection. The HCV minus strand was demonstrated in RNA extracted from six (13%) and five (11%) peripheral blood and bone marrow-derived lymphocytes, respectively. The HCV replicating form in lymphoid cells was associated strictly with mixed cryoglobulinaemia (MCG), in that it was found in six of 13 (46%) MCG patients, including two with B cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). No traces of HCV-negative strand RNA were found in four patients with acute hepatitis C, in 15 with chronic active hepatitis without extrahepatic disorders, in seven with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, and in seven with B-NHL without MCG. These results emphasize the direct role of the virus in the pathogenesis of MCG and support the contention that HCV is not specifically lymphotropic, its entry and replication in lymphoid cells being determined largely by selective interactions.