The establishment of esophageal cancer cell lines can facilitate the search for molecular mechanisms underlying its pathogenesis. Two novel human esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) cell lines, HKESC-2 and HKESC-3, were established from a moderately differentiated ESCC of a 46-year-old Chinese woman and a well-differentiated ESCC of a 74-year-old Chinese man, both from Hong Kong. The pathological characteristics (morphological, immunohistochemical, and electron microscopic studies), tumorigenicity in nude mice, cytogenetic features, and DNA ploidy of the two cell lines were investigated. The two cell lines have been maintained in vitro for more than 17 months and passaged over 85 times for HKESC-2 and 58 times for HKESC-3. Both grew as monolayers, with a doubling time of 24 hours for HKESC-2 and 48 h for HKESC-3. Their squamous epithelial nature was authenticated by their strong immunopositivity with the anti-cytokeratin antibodies and the ultrastructural demonstration of tonofilaments and desmosomes. They are tumorigenic in nude mice and had DNA aneuploidy. G-banding cytogenetic analysis showed hyperdiploidy in HKESC-2 and near-tetraploidy in HKESC-3. Frequent breakpoints were noted at 1p22, 1p32, and 9q34 in HKESC-2 and at 1p31, 3p25, 3p14, 6q16, 6q21, 8p21, 9q34, 13q32, and 17q25 in HKESC-3. Comparative genomic hybridization analysis found that chromosomal gains were at 3q24-qter, 5q21-qter, 8q11-qter, 13q21-q31, 17q11-qter, 19, 22q22 for HKESC-2 and at 3q13-qter, 5p, 6p, 9q21-qter, 10q21-q22, 12q15-pter, 14q24-qter, 16, 17q24-qter, 20 for HKESC-3. Chromosomal losses were at 3p13-pter, 18q12-qter for HKESC-3. These two newly established cell lines will be useful tools in the study of the molecular pathogenesis and biological behavior of ESCC cells and for testing new therapeutic reagents for ESCC in the future.