The histology, ultrastructure, and messenger RNA expression of heterotransplants derived from the G401 cell line (American Type Culture Collection) have been characterized by comparison with Wilms' and rhabdoid tumors of the kidney. This analysis illustrates that the properties of G401 heterotransplant were consistent with a rhabdoid phenotype rather than that of a Wilms' tumor. The G401 cell line has been utilized in recent experiments to demonstrate the central role of chromosome 11 in Wilms' tumor. However, the present results suggest that these experiments may be more relevant to define the involvement of chromosome 11 in rhabdoid tumor of the kidney, a malignancy distinct from Wilms' tumor. This is clinically relevant since the rhabdoid tumor of the kidney is very aggressive and associated with an extremely poor prognosis.