AIMS: To determine the localisation of human cytomegalovirus (CMV) DNA in abdominal aorta, spleen, and transplantable organs, such as kidney, pancreas, and liver, obtained from healthy individuals; to characterise the cell type(s) in these tissues that serve as a reservoir for latent CMV. METHODS: CMV DNA was detected by dot blot DNA hybridisation and in situ DNA hybridisation with a probe for CMV major immediate early sequences (UL123) and nested PCR with primers derived from the CMV major immediate early (IE) gene exon 4 (UL123ex4). Samples of liver, abdominal aorta, spleen, kidney, and pancreas were obtained at necropsy or from donor kidneys from healthy subjects. RESULTS: CMV DNA was detected in most tissue samples using dot blot hybridisation and nested PCR. In situ hybridisation demonstrated that, in addition to smooth muscle cells in the arterial wall, hepatocytes, tubular and glomerular kidney cells, splenic red pulp cells, and pancreatic acinar cells also harboured CMV DNA. CMV DNA was detected in seropositive and in some seronegative subjects. CONCLUSION: CMV DNA is widely distributed in organs of healthy subjects. CMV DNA was found in various cell types in several organs, suggesting that during latency, CMV DNA is present thoughout the body.