Malignant mesothelioma (MM) is an aggressive tumour of the serosal cavities which is associated with previous asbestos exposure and is generally found to be resistant to conventional forms of therapy. Adequate scientific and clinical assessment of this disease has been severely limited by the relatively low incidence of mesothelioma and the lack of representative cell lines and animal models. The purpose of this study was to develop an asbestos-induced murine model of MM both as an in vivo-passaged malignancy and as in vitro-established cell lines. Such a model system would be invaluable for use in the study of various cellular, molecular and genetic aspects of the disease, and for the pre-clinical evaluation of potential therapeutic agents. BALB/c and CBA mice were injected intraperitoneally with crocidolite asbestos. Seven to 25 months after exposure, 35% of the mice developed mesothelioma (5 BALB/c, 9 CBA), as determined by standard cytological and histological parameters. From these primary tumours, 12 continuously growing cell lines (5 BALB/c, 7 CBA) were established in culture. All have been confirmed as mesothelioma by cytological and ultrastructural (electron microscopy) analyses. These lines have been in culture for 7 to 24 months and have achieved passages above 32 (range 32 to 106). As in the human disease, the murine mesothelioma lines vary in their morphology and growth rates (doubling times ranging from 14 to 30 hr). All cell lines produced tumours when injected into syngeneic mice.