We evaluated the suitability of single and multiple cell type cultures as model systems to characterise cellular kinetics of highly lipophilic compounds with potential ecotoxicological impact. Confluent mono-layers of human skin fibroblasts, rat astrocytoma C6 cells, non-differentiated and differentiated mouse 3T3 cells were kept in culture medium supplemented with 10% foetal calf serum. For competitive uptake experiments up to four different cell types, grown on glass sectors, were exposed for 3h to (14)C-labelled model compounds, dissolved either in organic solvents or incorporated into unilamellar lecithin liposomes. Bromo-, or chloro-benzenes, decabromodiphenylether (DBP), and dichlorodiphenyl ethylene (DDE) were tested in rather high concentration of 20 microM. Cellular toxicity was low. Compound levels were related to protein, DNA, and triglyceride contents. Cellular uptake was fast and dependent on physico-chemical properties of the compounds (lipophilicity, molecular size), formulation, and cell type. Mono-halogenated benzenes showed low and similar uptake levels (=low accumulation compounds). DBP and DDE showed much higher cellular accumulations (=high accumulation compounds) except for DBP in 3T3 cells. Uptake from liposomal formulations was mostly higher than if compounds were dissolved in organic solvents. The extent of uptake correlated with the cellular content of triglycerides, except for DBP. Uptake competition between different cell types was studied in a sectorial multi-cell culture model. For low accumulation compounds negligible differences were found among C6 cells and fibroblasts. Uptake of DDE was slightly and that of DBP highly increased in fibroblasts. Well-defined cell culture systems, especially the sectorial model, are appropriate to screen for bioaccumulation and cytotoxicity of (unknown) chemical entities in vitro.