BACKGROUND: Tubuloreticular structures (TRS) are subcellular inclusions that are most commonly found in endothelial cells and lymphocytes of patients with autoimmune or collagen vascular disorders. In AIDS, TRS have been described in various tissues throughout the body including the lung, kidney, liver, muscle, and skin. METHODS: Ocular tissues from 23 patients with AIDS were examined by electron microscopy. These included 17 postmortem eyes in addition to three chorioretinal and three conjunctival biopsy specimens. RESULTS: The overall prevalence of TRS in the ocular and conjunctival endothelial cells was found to be 83% (19/23). CONCLUSIONS: This is the first documented study of the prevalence of these structures in the ocular structures of patients with AIDS. Given the high frequency of their occurrence in AIDS, it is recommended that the presence of TRS in ocular or conjunctival tissues be an indication for obtaining an HIV antibody titre. Additionally, a rheumatological examination for HIV seronegative patients is suggested.