There is no satisfactory conventional treatment for patients who experience irreversible salivary gland damage after therapeutic radiation for head and neck cancer or because of Sjögren's syndrome. Additionally, if most parenchyma is lost, these patients also are not candidates for evolving gene transfer strategies. To help such patients, several years ago we began to develop an artificial salivary gland. In the present study, we used a non-human primate tissue source, parotid glands from rhesus monkeys, to obtain potential autologous graft cells for development of a prototype device for in situ testing. Herein, we present 3 major findings. First, we show that primary cultures of rhesus parotid gland (RPG) cells are capable of attaining a polarized orientation, with Na(+)/K(+)-adenosine triphosphatase, zonula occludens-1, and claudin-1 distributed in specific domains appropriate for epithelial cells. Second, we show that RPG cells exhibit 2 essential epithelial functions required for graft cells in an artificial salivary gland device (i.e., an effective barrier to paracellular water flow and the generation of a moderate transepithelial electrical resistance). Third, we show that RPG cells can express functional water channels, capable of mediating directional fluid movement, after transduction by adenoviral and adeno-associated virus type 2 vectors. Together these results demonstrate that it is feasible to individually prepare RPG cells for eventual use in a prototype artificial salivary gland.