A method for nonradioactive polymerase chain reaction in situ hybridization was developed and used to determine the distribution of human T-lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-I) proviral DNA in paraffin-embedded surgical specimens of adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL). As controls, we used biopsy samples of five cases of mycosis fungoides, cells of an HTLV-I- infected cell line (MT2), as well as HTLV-l-negative cells (YAS). We successfully detected the amplicon of the HTLV-1 tax sequence in the nuclei of the cutaneous infiltrating lymphoid cells in 90% (9/10) of ATLL cases. Studies also revealed the existence of HTLV-1 provirus DNA in nuclei of sweat gland epithelial cells and vascular endothelial cells as well as lymphoid cells in ATLL patients. Mycosis fungoides and YAS cells were negative for the HTLV-I tax sequence, but MT2 cells were strongly positive. The results indicated that this technique was more sensitive in detecting intracellular amplicons than was the previous in situ hybridization method. Through its use, we were able to easily determine the distribution of HTLV-I-positive cells among the various cells and tissues of paraffinembedded archival materials.