Three human cell lines from adenocarcinomas of the extrahepatic biliary tract were established in permanent tissue culture. Mz-ChA-1 and Mz-ChA-2 were cultured from mechanically dissociated gallbladder adenocarcinoma metastases and SK-ChA-1 was grown from malignant ascites of a patient with primary adenocarcinoma of the extrahepatic biliary tree. Cell doubling times in tissue culture are 3-4 days for Mz-ChA-1 and approximately 2 days for Mz-ChA-2 and SK-ChA-1. All three tumour cell lines were successfully transplanted to nude mice, inducing progressive tumour growth. Histologically, nude mouse tumours resembled the original adenocarcinomas. In vitro formation of gland-like structures were regularly seen in Mz-ChA-1 and Mz-ChA-2 but only occasionally in SK-ChA-1. All three cell lines formed contacts through interdigitating processes with desmosomes and junctional complexes. On scanning electron microscopy, an abundance of microvilli was seen at the cell surfaces. Chromosome analyses of all three tumour cell lines showed a wide range of numerical abnormalities and presence of marker chromosomes. Mz-ChA-1 appears to be highly differentiated with cells producing mucus. Mz-ChA-2 synthesizes components of complement C2, C3 and C5, while Mz-ChA-1 and SK-ChA-1 produce only C3 in detectable quantities. In addition, Mz-ChA-2 supernatants are positive for ferritin and alpha 1-fetoprotein, but not CEA; while Mz-ChA-1 and SK-ChA-1 produce only CEA. Supernatants of all three cell lines are positive for N-acetyl neuraminic acid (NANA), phosphohexoisomerase (PHI) and LDH, and negative for alpha 2-macroglobulin, alpha 1-anti-trypsin, gamma-GT, AP, coeruloplasmin, haptoglobin and albumin. A high cloning efficiency renders these new tumour cell lines suitable for continued studies on clonal heterogeneity in malignant tumours. The establishment of these cell lines in tissue culture facilitates further studies on the biology of upper gastrointestinal tract cancer in man.