Camptothecin (CPT) is an anticancer and antiviral alkaloid produced by the Chinese tree Camptotheca acuminata (Nyssaceae) and some other species belonging to the families Apocynaceae, Olacaceae, and Rubiaceae. Bark and seeds are currently used as sources for the drug. Several attempts have been made to produce CPT from cell suspensions; however, the low yields obtained limit this approach. Cultures of differentiated cell types may be an alternative source of alkaloid production. Hairy root cultures of C. acuminata were established from tissue transformed with Agrobacterium rhizogenes strains ATCC 15834 and R-1000. Integration of the genes responsible for the hairy-root phenotype ( rol genes) into the plant genome was verified by DNA gel blot analysis. The hairy roots produce and secrete CPT as well as the more potent and less toxic natural derivative, 10-hydroxycamptothecin (HCPT), into the medium. Remarkably, the cultures were able to synthesize the alkaloids at levels equal to, and sometimes greater than, the roots in planta, i.e., 1.0 and 0.15 mg/g dry weight for CPT and the HCPT, respectively.