A proliferating population of human foreskin keratinocytes (presently in the sixtieth passage) has been obtained after transfection with human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 DNA. In contrast, the control cultures did not survive beyond the sixth passage. Cytogenetic analysis of cells taken from the twelfth passage revealed a heteroploid male karyotype. In approximately 50% of the cells a common marker chromosome was found, suggesting a clonal origin for at least part of the population. This is further substantiated by Southern blot analysis of cellular DNA which revealed oligomeric HPV 16 genomes integrated at a single site within the host DNA. RNA transcribed from the early region of the HPV 16 genome was identified in the cytoplasm. The immortalizing effect of HPV 16 DNA on human keratinocytes could be reproduced in a second experiment. Such cell lines represent an unique system to study the interaction of HPV with its natural target cell in vitro.