Sixty-two explants from peripheral blood, bone marrow and cerebral fluid of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and leukemic transformed non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) were cultivated for at least 8 weeks. Although lymphatic cells persisted up to 16 weeks in tissue culture, no proliferation was observed in 54 cultures. From the remaining cultures, eight permanently growing cell lines were obtained. Five of these were EBNA (Epstein-Barr virus-specific nuclear antigen)-positive. Three, however, were ENBA-negative and lacked Epstein-Barr virus genomes. Two cell lines (KM-3 and SH-2) expressed neither B nor T cell characteristics. One line (JM) expressed T cell characteristics and complement receptors. The growing lymphatic cells represented leukemic cells, since the pattern of cytochemical staining and that of membrane receptors of lymphoblasts from the same donor prior to cultivation were identical. All leukemic cell lines were derived from patients in relapse. In contrast, no proliferation of leukemic cells occurred in explains from patients revealing the first manifestation of the disease. These results suggest enhanced growth potential of lymphoblasts resisting antileukemic therapy.