A glioma cell line, CNS-1, was developed in the inbred Lewis rat to obtain a histocompatible astrocytoma cell line with infiltrative and growth patterns that more closely simulate those observed in human gliomas. Rats were given weekly intravenous injections for a six month period with N-nitroso-N-methylurea to produce neoplasm in the central nervous system. Intracranial tumor was isolated, enzymatically and mechanically digested, and placed into culture. The tumor cell line injected subcutaneously on the flanks of Lewis rats grew extensively in situ as cohesive tumor masses but did not metastasize. Intracranially, CNS-1 demonstrated single cell infiltration of paranchyma and leptomeningeal, perivascular, and periventricular spread with expansion of the tumor within choroid plexus stroma. CNS-1 cells titrated in right frontal brain of Lewis rats at 10(5), 5 x 10(5), 10(5), 5 x 10(4) cells per group had mean survival times ranging from 20.5 to 30.2 days. CNS-1 was immunoreactive for glial fibrillary acidic protein, S100 protein, vimentin, neural cell adhesion molecule, retinoic acid receptor alpha, intercellular adhesion molecule, and neuron specific enolase. The CNS-1 cells commonly had one or more trisomies of chromosomes 11, 13 or 18; losses, possibly random, of chromosomes (3, 5, 19, 30, X or Y) were noticed, and a marker chromosome made up of approximately 3 chromosomes was usual. Comparisons of CNS-1 to 9L gliosarcoma tumor were made. The glial CNS-1 tumor model provides an excellent system in which to investigate a variety of immunological therapeutic modalities. It spreads within brain in a less cohesive mass than 9L and is accepted without rejection in non-central nervous system sites by Lewis rats.