The growth of 20 independently derived skin fibroblastlike (FL) cell strains from three individuals with Werner syndrome (adult progeria) was compared with the growth of ten FL cell strains from normal individuals. Population growth rates and total replicative life spans of Werner syndrome strains averaged 53% and 27%, respectively, of the growth rates and life spans of non-Werner strains. In the first few passages, four Werner syndrome strains demonstrated population growth rates in the low normal range, but the longest-lived Werner syndrome strain had only 75% of the total replicative potential of the shortest-lived normal strain. Exponential growth rates, cloning efficiencies, and saturation densities of Werner strains were also reduced, whereas cell attachment was normal. Viable cells (identified by dye exclusion) were maintained in post-replicative Werner syndrome and control cultures for periods of at least 10 months; there was no evidence of accelerated post-replicative senescence of cell death of Werner syndrome FL cells. Cocultivation of Werner syndrome and normal strains did not influence population growth rates of either strain. Two proliferating hybrid clones were obtained from fusions of normal and Werner syndrome FL cell strains and these hybrids displayed the reduced growth potential typical of Werner syndrome FL cells. These studies confirm that low growth rate and sharply reduced replicative life span are characteristic of cultured skin FL cells from patients with Werner syndrome, and they suggest that these characteristics are not affected by complementation with non-Werner FL cells.