Chondrocytes from the Swarm chondrosarcoma, a transplantable rat tumor, have been difficult to maintain in tissue culture for extended periods due to a time-dependent alteration of the culture to a more fibroblastic phenotype. This feature precluded the use of these cultures to examine chronic conditions that may affect cell metabolism, and the homogeneity or heterogeneity of the tumor cells within the culture population could not be examined. Use of suspension culture in agarose stabilized the chondrocyte phenotype, permitting long-term culture. Clones of tumor chondrocytes were established in agarose and were examined over 2-3 weeks for evidence that the cells were accumulating a proteoglycan-rich extracellular matrix, as determined by positive staining by Alcian blue, and were undergoing cell division. Nearly 90% of the cloned cells exhibited a prominent extracellular matrix by day 7 of culture and greater than 99% did so by day 14. Cell division did not occur to any great extent until days 6-7 of culture. After this lag, the cells appeared to undergo logarithmic growth, with a cell generation time of about 12 days. By 20 days of culture, between 80 and 90% of the initial clones contained multiple cells, indicating that nearly all the cells were in, or had entered, the cell cycle. These results suggest that the chondrocytes from the rat chondrosarcoma form a homogeneous cell population with respect to their ability to synthesize an extra-cellular matrix and divide.