Dispersed cells from both fresh and cryopreserved human insulinoma have been maintained in cell culture. Initial yield of viable cells was 50% for fresh and 25% for cryopreserved tissue. Viability of cells in culture was documented by increasing numbers of cells (doubling time approximately 5 d initially and 2 d at the sixth subculture for both fresh and cryopreserved tissue) and continued release of insulin over time (approximately 100 ng/ml per 10(5) cells at 10 d and 175 ng/ml per 10(5) cells at 30 d of culture for both fresh and cryopreserved tissue). Evidence that cells growing in culture were beta cells was provided by: (a) recovery of intracellular and extracellular immunoreactive insulin (IRI), (b) electron microscopic morphology, and (c) immunohistochemical staining. Cells from fresh insulinoma incubated with increasing concentrations of extracellular glucose released increasing amounts of IRI up to approximately 15 mM glucose, which paralleled changes in plasma insulin obtained during a preoperative glucose tolerance test.