Orthotopic cell transplantation models are important for a complete understanding of cell-cell interactions as well as tumor biology. In published studies of orthotopic transplantation in the mouse adrenal gland, human neuroblastoma cells have been shown to invade and occupy the adrenal, but in these investigations a true orthotopic model was not established. Here we show an orthotopic model in which transplanted cells are retained within the adrenal gland by formation of a fibrin clot. To establish an appropriate technique, we used brightly fluorescent 10 microm polystyrene microspheres injected into the mouse adrenal gland. In the absence of fibrinogen/thrombin for clot formation, much of the injected material was extruded to the outside of the gland. When the microspheres were injected in a fibrinogen/thrombin mixture, fluorescence was confined to the adrenal gland. As a model neoplastic cell originating from the cortex of the gland, we used a tumorigenic bovine adrenocortical cell line. When 3 x 10(5) cells were implanted orthotopically, by 16 days the cell mass had expanded and had invaded the cortex, whereas when 1 x 10(5) cells were used, tumor masses were much smaller. We therefore subsequently used 3 x 10(5) cells. When mice were sacrificed at different time points, we found that tumor growth resulting was progressive and that by 26 days cells there was extensive invasion into the cortex or almost complete replacement of the cortex with tumor cells. As a model neoplastic cell of neural crest origin, we used SK-N-AS human neuroblastoma cells. Orthotopic transplantation of 3 x 10(5) cells resulted in extensive invasion and destruction of the gland by 26 days. In summary, the present orthotopic model for intra-adrenal cell transplantation is valuable for investigation of growth of neoplastic cells of both cortical and medullary origin and should be useful for future studies of cortex-medulla interactions.