Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been identified in a wide range of neoplastic and non-neoplastic disorders. The EBV open reading frame BHRF1 encodes a protein with partial sequence and functional homology to the anti-apoptotic onco-protein Bcl-2 and may therefore have a role in the proliferation of EBV positive cells. We have developed a rat monoclonal antibody against pBHRF1, which can detect BHRF1 in paraffin sections. While a number of mutant versions of BHRF1 were recognised, the monoclonal did not detect the BHRF1 homologue encoded by Herpesvirus papio or two mutants with deletions in the BH2 region. This novel rat monoclonal antibody (6A9) was used to examine tissue sections from 39 cases of non-keratinising undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), 6 cases of metastatic NPC, 7 cases of EBV-positive NPC with squamous differentiation from Chinese patients, 15 cases of EBV-positive post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD), 6 EBV-containing lymphoblastoid cell lines, and 2 cases of oral hairy leukoplakia (OHL). In 11 cases of undifferentiated NPC, RT-PCR data were available for comparison with the immunohistochemistry. Both cases of OHL and two cases of LCL were positive for BHRF1 but none of the PTLD showed positive staining. All cases of undifferentiated NPC were positive for Bcl-2 but only one BHRF1 positive cell was identified in 1 of 39 cases of primary undifferentiated NPC. The 6A9 antibody produced less background staining and no nuclear positivity compared with the commercially available mouse monoclonal 5B11. It is concluded that BHRF1 can not be detected by immunohistochemistry in NPC and therefore it appears not to play a significant anti-apoptotic role in the progression of this EBV-associated tumour. The 6A9 monoclonal appears to be superior to 5B11 for the detection of pBHRF1 in tissue sections.