B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHL-B) have been difficult to establish in long-term cell culture using standard techniques. We report the establishment of five representative cell lines from high grade NHL-B using B-cell growth factor (BCGF). The five NHL-B cell lines display the morphologic, immunophenotypic, genotypic, and biologic characteristics of the lymphoma cells present in the original diagnostic specimen. The cell lines showed at least a sevenfold dose- dependent increase in proliferation in vitro over background in the presence of BCGF. Other putative B-cell growth-stimulating cytokines showed no significant proliferative activity or were inhibitory in some cases. NHL-B cell lines secreted growth factor(s) into culture supernatants that mediated at least a fivefold dose-dependent increase in cell proliferation in autochthonous lymphoma cells and a 10-fold or greater stimulation in growth factor-dependent normal B cell lines in vitro. The cell lines show monoclonal rearrangements of IgH genes and nonrandom chromosomal abnormalities characteristic of NHL-B, while the expression of Epstein-Barr virus associated antigen (EBNA-I) is present in two of the five cell lines. The studies show that lineage-specific growth factors may be used to establish neoplastic B cell lines in vitro, which are important experimental systems for cellular and molecular studies in the NHL-B.