The possible use of pig organs and tissues as xenografts in humans is actively being considered in biomedical research. We therefore examined whether pig endogenous retrovirus (PERV) genomes can be infectiously transmitted to human cells in culture. Two pig kidney cell lines spontaneously produce C-type retrovirus particles. Cell-free retrovirus produced by the PK-15 kidney cell line (PERV-PK) infected pig, mink and human kidney 293 cell lines and co-cultivation of X-irradiated PK-15 cells with human cells resulted in a broader range of human cell infection, including human diploid fibroblasts and B- and T-cell lines. Kidney, heart and spleen tissue obtained from domestic pigs contained multiple copies of integrated PERV genomes and expressed viral RNA. Upon passage in human cells PERV-PK could rescue a Moloney retroviral vector and acquired resistance to lysis by human complement.