A serially transplantable tumor line, designated CAC-8, has been developed in nude mice from a spontaneously occurring adenocarcinoma of the anal sac from a hypercalcemic dog. Nude mice with transplanted CAC-8 developed hypercalcemia (mean 16.3 +/- 0.6 mg/dl) and moderate hypophosphatemia without bone metastasis. Urinary excretion of calcium and hydroxyproline were increased 6- and 2.3-fold, respectively. Urinary excretion of cAMP was moderately increased but phosphorus excretion was not significantly altered. Serum 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol was increased significantly in tumor-bearing nude mice in proportion to the magnitude of tumor-induced hypercalcemia. Histomorphometric evaluation of lumbar vertebrae from nude mice with CAC-8 revealed decreased total and cortical bone volume, a 3.3-fold increase in bone resorption rate and a 2.5-fold increase in bone formation rate at the tissue level. The transplanted CAC-8 has maintained the histologic pattern of the original carcinoma up to the present sixth passage. Ultrastructural evaluation of transplanted tumor cells revealed 150-250-nm secretory-like granules. The granules did not stain by using an ultrastructural cytochemical (uranaffin) stain specific for neuroendocrine secretory granules. Ultrastructurally, the parathyroid glands of nude mice with CAC-8 appeared inactive with large intracytoplasmic whorl of agranular membranes. These data suggest the transplanted carcinoma secreted a humoral factor which resulted in hypercalcemia. The tumor line (CAC-8) propagated in nude mice represents an animal model of humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy that shares many features with the syndrome described in human patients. Unique features of this transplanted carcinoma associated with hypercalcemia include increased serum dihydroxycholecalciferol, increased rate of bone formation as well as bone resorption, an absence of bone metastases, and evidence of parathyroid gland suppression.