Interest in obtaining cell lines for use in studies on the development and biochemistry of the central nervous system has motivated efforts to establish cells from primary brain cultures by the use of oncogene-transfer techniques. In previous reports, cell lines derived from astrocytes in this way have had immature or abnormal phenotypes. We have explored the possibility of specifically 'targeting' expression of exogenous oncogenes to differentiated astrocytes by using the promoter of the gene encoding glial fibrillary acidic protein, which is expressed almost exclusively in such cells. We report here that cell lines displaying the phenotypic characteristics of type 1 astrocytes can be established reproducibly in this manner. Given the heterogeneity of primary cultures, the availability of clonal cell lines displaying characteristics of type 1 astrocytes should greatly facilitate our understanding of the biology of these cells.