AIM: To investigate whether human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) can cause latent infection of liver tissue. METHODS: Peripheral blood and liver tissue were collected from 25 living related liver transplant recipients at the time of transplantation. An avidin-biotin complex peroxidase method was used to identify HHV-6 antigen in the liver tissue. A nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to detect HHV-6 DNA in the liver tissue and mononuclear cells. Variant of HHV-6 was determined by the presence of the Hind III site in a second PCR product. RESULTS: Immunohistochemical analysis for HHV-6 antigen was negative in all the liver specimens. HHV-6 DNA was not detected in liver tissue. Virus DNA was detected in peripheral blood mononuclear cells in nine of 25 recipients. All nine HHV-6 identified in the mononuclear cells were variant B. CONCLUSIONS: HHV-6 variant B latently infects mononuclear cells but not liver tissue.