The effects of alpha-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) on survival, cell kinetics and polyamine levels were studied on two clones of human astrocytoma in vitro. The survival responses were dose and time dependent; and treatments with DFMO which lasted for 72 h resulted in heterogeneous responses with one clone being up to 6 times more sensitive than the other. Shorter treatments produced more uniform killing in the clones. A continuous exposure of the cells to 5 mM DFMO resulted in a rapid decrease in putrescine values in both clones, followed by decreases in the spermidine levels. These effects were closely followed by 148% to 170% increases in cell population doubling times, and a lowering of saturation densities. No clear correlations could be established among baseline polyamine levels and cell kinetics or survival responses to DFMO treatments.