In standard culture conditions, three human hepatoma cell lines, Hep3B, PLC/PRF/5 and HepG2, were characterised by a predominant transcription of only two (H2 and L) among the four genes involved in the synthesis of inter-α-trypsin inhibitor (ITI)-related proteins. Pulse-chase experiments followed by immunoprecipitation with specific anti-L and anti-H ITI antisera showed that the proteins synthesised displayed a restricted L and/or H2 antigenic reactivity. Furthermore, while Hep3B and PLC/PRF/5 lines only synthesised ITI precursors (mainly the L-form), HepG2 cells were able to secrete an ITI-like protein. Immunocytochemical analyses substantiated these results with uneven distribution of heavy and light-chain polypeptide reactivity among the cells. The use of hepatoma cell models for the study of protein synthesis and assembly must therefore be considered cautiously.