Seven mesothelioma cell lines were established from clinical specimens from five patients with asbestos-related malignant pleural mesothelioma. The cells in culture show either epithelial or mixed epithelial/fibrosarcomatous growth with an average doubling time of 30 h. Giant multinucleated cells are common in all the cell lines, as well as long thin microvilli on the cell surfaces. All cell lines were cytokeratin positive and they stained negatively for monocyte-macrophage markers. All seven cell lines and one long-term tissue culture from a sixth mesothelioma patient were characterized cytogenetically. Karyotype analyses revealed complex structural and numerical abnormalities, primarily involving chromosome 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 22. An excess of chromosome material of the short arm of chromosome 5 was seen consistently in six cell lines and in the long-term culture. In cell lines from four patients, changes in chromosome 13, mainly monosomy 13, were observed. The marker chromosomes observed in the early passages were conserved and few additional changes appeared in later passages. Six of the cell lines tested for tumorigenicity in athymic nude mice were weakly positive.