This report describes the development and characterization of an epithelial cell line (BPH-1) from human prostate tissue obtained by transurethral resection. Primary epithelial cell cultures were immortalized with SV40 large T antigen. One of the isolated clones was designated BPH-1. These cells have a cobblestone appearance in monolayer culture and are non-tumorigenic in nude mice following subcutaneous injection or subrenal capsule grafting. They express the SV40 large T antigen and exhibit increased levels of p53, as determined by immunocytochemistry. Cytogenetic analysis by G-banding demonstrated an aneuploid karyotype with a modal chromosome number of 76 (range 71 to 79, n = 28) and 6 to 8 marker chromosomes. Some structurally rearranged chromosomes were observed, but the Y chromosome was normal. The expressed cytokeratin profile was consistent with a prostatic luminal epithelial cell. This profile was the same as that of primary prostatic epithelial cultures from which the BPH-1 cells were derived. In serum-free culture in plastic dishes epidermal growth factor (EGF), transforming growth factor (TGF)-alpha, fibroblast growth factor (FGF) 1 (aFGF), and FGF 7 (KGF) induced increased proliferation in these cells whereas FGF 2 (bFGF), TGF-beta 1, and TGF-beta 2 inhibited proliferative activity. Testosterone had no direct effect on the proliferative rate of BPH-1 cells. 5 alpha-Reductase, 3 alpha-hydroxysteroid oxidoreductase, and 17 beta-hydroxy-steroid oxidoreductase activities were detected in BPH-1 cells. Expression of androgen receptors and the secretory markers, prostate specific antigen and prostatic acid phosphatase, were not detectable by immunocytochemistry, biochemical assay, or RT-PCR analysis.