A stromal cell-dependent long-term culture (LTC) system has been developed from spleen which continuously generates non-adherent cells with dendritic cell (DC) characteristics. Bioassays using factor-dependent cell lines have revealed that both spleen and thymic stromal cultures secrete interleukin (IL)-3 and IL-6-like growth factors. Conditioned medium from LTC also contains factors which appear to be unrelated to IL-3 and induces growth of stromal cells from bone marrow. Non-adherent cells generated in LTC were not T or B lymphoid cells or granulocytes, nor were mast cells detectable. Morphological and electron microscopic examination has also excluded the presence of macrophages (Mo). Cells with DC morphology have been detected by both light and electron microscopy. The majority of cells in the non-adherent population were found to have multiple membrane pseudopodia, with a small acentric nucleus. These appear to be the precursors of DC. They expressed cell surface markers detectable with DC- specific antibodies and antibody specific for major histocompability complex Class II molecules. A proportion of cells also expressed myeloid markers, but since this expression was not supported by histochemical staining for myeloperoxidase or non-specific esterase, it was concluded that the cells produced are not typical of the myeloid lineage. Cells generated in LTC were shown to be potent stimulators for allogeneic and syngeneic MLR and for antigen-specific T-cell proliferation.