Herpesvirus saimiri induces a fatal lymphoproliferative syndrome in a variety of New World primate species. We now show that cell lines derived from PBL of the common marmoset by in vitro-immortalization with H. saimiri strain 11 represent a remarkably restricted lymphocyte population. These cell lines have NK cell function, phenotypically express both suppressor/cytotoxic (T8) and NK cell (NKH1)-associated antigens, and express a T cell receptor. This subpopulation of lymphocytes is a very minor population of cells in the peripheral blood of common marmosets (less than or equal to 3%). The specificity in the interaction between H. saimiri strain 11 and a subpopulation of common marmoset lymphocytes represents an example of a restricted viral lymphotropism and may have important implications for the disease induced by this virus in New World monkeys.