An increasing number of patients are treated by autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI). This study tests the hypothesis that culture within a defined chondrogenic medium containing TGF-beta enhances the re-expression of a chondrocytic phenotype and the subsequent production of cartilaginous extracellular matrix by human chondrocytes used in ACI. Chondrocytes surplus to clinical requirements for ACI from 24 patients were pelleted and cultured in either DMEM (Dulbecco's modified eagles medium)/ITS+Premix/TGF-beta1 or DMEM/10%FCS (fetal calf serum) and were subsequently analysed biochemically and morphologically. Pellets cultured in DMEM/ITS+/TGF-beta1 stained positively for type-II collagen, while those maintained in DMEM/10%FCS expressed type-I collagen. The pellets cultured in DMEM/ITS+/TGF-beta1 were larger and contained significantly greater amounts of DNA and glycosaminoglycans. This study suggests that the use of a defined medium containing TGF-beta is necessary to induce the re-expression of a differentiated chondrocytic phenotype and the subsequent stimulation of glycosaminoglycan and type-II collagen production by human monolayer expanded chondrocytes.