Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is the result of mutations in one allele of the PKD1 or PKD2 genes, followed by "second hit" somatic mutations of the other allele in renal tubule cells. Continued proliferation of clonal cells originating from different nephron segments leads to cyst formation. In vitro studies of the mechanisms of cyst formation have been hampered by the scarcity of nephrectomy specimens and the limited life span of cyst-derived cells in primary culture. We describe the development of a series of immortalized epithelial cell lines from over 30 individual renal cysts obtained from 11 patients with ADPKD. The cells were immortalized with either wild-type (WT) or temperature-sensitive (TS) recombinant adeno-simian virus (SV)40 viruses. SV40 DNA integration into the cell genome was verified by PCR analysis. The cells have been passaged over 50 times with no apparent phenotypic change. By light microscopy, the cells appear pleomorphic but mostly polygonal and resemble the primary cultures. Transmission electron microscopy shows polarized epithelia with tight junctions. The SV40 large T antigen was detected by immunocytochemistry and by Western blot analysis at 37 degrees C in the WT cell lines and at 33 degrees C in the TS cell lines. It disappeared in TS cells 72 h following transfer to 39 degrees C. The majority (29) of the cell lines show binding of Dolichos biflorus lectin, suggesting distal tubule origin. Three cell lines show binding of Lotus tetragonolobus lectin or express aminopeptidase N, suggesting proximal tubule origin. Three cell lines were derived from a mixture of cysts and express features of both tubules. The PKD1 and PKD2 mRNA and protein were detected in all cells by RT-PCR and by immunocytochemistry. The majority of the cells tested also express the epidermal growth factor receptor, cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator, epithelial sodium channel, and renin. These new series of cyst-derived cell lines represent useful and readily available in vitro models for studying the cellular and molecular biology of ADPKD.