This study establishes a reproducible technique for the culture of human peritoneal mesothelial cells. Direct explants, as well as enzymatically degraded specimens, of human omentum have been used as the source of cells. Cells were grown on collagen and gelatin coated matrices and were maintained in supplemented Ham's F-12 medium containing 10% (vol/vol) Fetal calf serum. Morphologically and ultrastructurally, the cells formed a homogeneous population. They were polygonal when confluent and devoid of contaminating fibroblasts, endothelial cells and macrophages. Cultured mesothelial cells co-expressed cytokeratin and vimentin and synthesized laminin, fibronectin, mesosecrin, non-specific esterase and collagen Types I and III but not Type IV. Ultrastructural features included numerous surface microvilli, cytoplasmic vesicles and an abundant endoplasmic reticulum. The stimulation of mesothelial cells by the calcium ionophore A23187 demonstrated that the two major products of arachidonic acid metabolism were prostacyclin and prostaglandin E2. The peritoneal mesothelial cell may be pivotal in the initiation of the inflammatory response during peritonitis and its establishment in culture will provide the basis for an in vitro model of peritoneal inflammation.