Two of the most commonly used elasmobranch experimental model species are the spiny dogfish Squalus acanthias and the little skate Leucoraja erinacea. Comparative biology and genomics with these species have provided useful information in physiology, pharmacology, toxicology, immunology, evolutionary developmental biology and genetics. A wealth of information has been obtained using in vitro approaches to study isolated cells and tissues from these organisms under circumstances in which the extracellular environment can be controlled. In addition to classical work with primary cell cultures, continuously proliferating cell lines have been derived recently, representing the first cell lines from cartilaginous fishes. These lines have proved to be valuable tools with which to explore functional genomic and biological questions and to test hypotheses at the molecular level. In genomic experiments, complementary (c)DNA libraries have been constructed, and c. 8000 unique transcripts identified, with over 3000 representing previously unknown gene sequences. A sub-set of messenger (m)RNAs has been detected for which the 3′ untranslated regions show elements that are remarkably well conserved evolutionarily, representing novel, potentially regulatory gene sequences. The cell culture systems provide physiologically valid tools to study functional roles of these sequences and other aspects of elasmobranch molecular cell biology and physiology. Information derived from the use of in vitro cell cultures is valuable in revealing gene diversity and information for genomic sequence assembly, as well as for identification of new genes and molecular markers, construction of gene-array probes and acquisition of full-length cDNA sequences.