A human neuroblastoma cell line, CA-2E, has been established from a bone-marrow aspirate of a 16-month-old boy with progressive disease. The karyotype and antigen phenotype of the cells correspond to those of a neuroblastoma. This cell line grows well in liquid cultures supplemented with 5% fetal calf serum; conversely, colony formation in semi-solid medium by cells from early passages is dependent upon exogenous EGF. With time in continuous culture, the cloning efficiency in the absence of EGF increases, but the line remains sensitive to EGF, as evidenced by an enhancement of the number and size of colonies. A relative dependence upon EGF in liquid cultures has also been clearly demonstrated by limiting the concentration of serum. Long-term (over 2 weeks) treatment with EGF results in a decreased rate of proliferation, a decreased proportion of clonogenic cells, and the appearance of flat, epithelial-type cells. In some experiments, EGF also has a remarkable effect in inducing neurite outgrowth and process branching. Our results suggest that EGF may have both proliferation- and differentiation-inducing effects on this neuroblastoma cell line. We have also shown that EGF induces increased proliferation in 7 out of 8 other human neuroblastoma cell lines. Functional response of neuroblastoma cells to EGF appears to be a general phenomenon which may be related to a block in the normal maturation pathway of the neural crest cells from which this tumor originates.