Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PIPAAm), exhibiting a lower critical solution temperature (LCST) at 25 degrees C in physiological phosphate buffered saline solution (pH 7.4) and at 32 degrees C in pure water, was grafted onto the surfaces of commercial polystyrene cell culture dishes. This PIPAAm-grafted surface exhibited hydrophobic surface properties at temperatures over the LCST and hydrophilic surface properties below the LCST. Endothelial cells and hepatocytes attached and proliferated on PIPAAm-grafted surfaces at 37 degrees C, above the LCST. The cultured cells were readily detached from these surfaces by lowering the incubation temperature without the usual damage associated with trypsinization. In this case, the optimum temperature for cell detachment was 10 degrees C for hepatocytes and 20 degrees C for endothelial cells. Cell detachment was partially inhibited by sodium azide treatment, suggesting that cell metabolism directly affects cell detachment. Morphological changes of the adherent cells during cell detachment experiments indicated further involvement of active cellular metabolic processes. Cells detached from hydrophobic-hydrophilic PIPAAm surfaces not only via reduced cell-surface interactions caused by the spontaneous hydration of grafted PIPAAm chains, but also by active cell morphological changes which were a function of cell metabolism.