Inhibition of rabbit subconjunctival fibroblast attachment and proliferation by the antimetabolites 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and cytosine arabinoside (ara-C) was determined by radionucleotide uptake, cell counting, and colorimetric assays for the concentration range of 1000 to 0.0001 micrograms/ml over an 11-day period. The mean 50% inhibitory doses (ID50s) against proliferation were calculated for each assay. Rabbit fibroblast attachment was not inhibited at any drug concentration by either 5-FU or ara-C. Ara-C was a 10 to 100 times more potent inhibitor of rabbit fibroblast proliferation than 5-FU. The mean ID50s for rabbit subconjunctival fibroblasts were compared with the mean ID50s from a similar series of experiments conducted in our laboratory on human subconjunctival fibroblasts. Unpaired t-test analysis showed a significant difference between the inhibitory effects of 5-FU on rabbit and human fibroblast proliferation. An ID50 against rabbit fibroblasts was detectable after 24 hours of incubation with 5-FU by the 3H-thymidine uptake assay, whereas the ID50 against human fibroblasts was detectable after 48 hours of incubation. Once inhibition of proliferation occurred, however, human fibroblasts were up to six times more sensitive to the antiproliferative effects of 5-FU than rabbit fibroblasts as measured by the 3H-thymidine uptake assay (p = 0.0005). Unpaired t-test analysis showed no statistical difference between the ID50s of ara-C on rabbit and human fibroblasts. Starting on day 3, however, doses greater than 1 micrograms/ml of ara-C were cytotoxic to rabbit fibroblasts but only cytostatic to human fibroblasts as determined by trypan blue uptake assay microscopically. Rabbit ocular fibroblasts may be useful in modelling the proliferation of human ocular fibroblasts in vitro to a limited degree. This tissue culture system may be useful for predicting optimal drug dosages for in vivo rabbit and human glaucoma filtering surgery.