To investigate the ability of extended incubation times to improve the success of endothelial cell transplantation, eight human donor corneas were denuded of their native endothelium, seeded twice during a 1-hr interval with a suspension of cultured infant human corneal endothelial cells, and then incubated for 144 hr under standard conditions. Subsequently the corneas were transplanted into African green monkeys using routine penetrating keratoplasty techniques. Rotational autografts and corneas devoid of endothelial cells served as controls. The seeded corneas appeared hazy at the time of surgery (mean pachymetry 48 hr postoperatively, 0.794 mm). Six corneas (75%) subsequently cleared, yielding a mean corneal thickness of 0.541 +/- 0.040 and 0.554 +/- 0.040 at 6 and 12 postoperative months, respectively. All control eyes showed advanced edema (thickness, greater than 1.0 mm) and developed extensive neovascularization. Clinically, the extended postseeding incubation corneas were observed to clear more rapidly and stabilize their thickness earlier than corneas incubated for only 24-48 hr. Scanning electron microscopy of extended postseeding incubation corneas revealed an intact monolayer of contact-inhibited cells with the hexagonal mosaic typical of corneal endothelium in vivo and improved intercellular contact compared with corneas incubated for only 24-48 hr.