Using a collagenase trypsin-EDTA treatment, we have been able to successfully isolate and grow primary cultures of the lymphatic endothelium (LEC) that were subcultured, frozen for storage, subsequently thawed with good recovery and growth, and serially subcultured. The morphological features of cultured LEC were consistent with that observed for the endothelium of intact lymphatic vessels. A prominent feature of growing cultures was the appearance of large vacuoles in the perinuclear region of the cytoplasm, which became filled with fluid and cell debris engulfed from the culture medium. The basal cell surface lacked a well defined basal lamina and anchoring filaments were observed extending from the basal plasmalemmal surface into the underlying substratum. LEC in cultures were also positive for Factor VIII-related antigen. However, specific granules, characteristic of Weibel-Palade bodies were not observed in ultrathin sections of confluent cultures. F-actin was identified in LEC cultures using fluorescein phalloidin, and in confluent cultures actin filaments were located at the periphery of the cell as a continuous circumferential thin band and short filamentous bundles in the central part of the cell. By using heparin and endothelial cell growth supplement in the culture medium we have been able to grow stable cultures of lymphatic endothelial cells that could be maintained when serially subcultured for over two years. These LEC cultures provide an in vitro model for investigating the function and biochemical properties of the lymphatic endothelium. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.