Human pluripotent stem cells would be invaluable for in vitro studies of aspects of human embryogenesis. With the goal of establishing pluripotent stem cell lines, gonadal ridges and mesenteries containing primordial germ cells (PGCs, 5-9 weeks postfertilization) were cultured on mouse STO fibroblast feeder layers in the presence of human recombinant leukemia inhibitory factor, human recombinant basic fibroblast growth factor, and forskolin. Initially, single PGCs in culture were visualized by alkaline phosphatase activity staining. Over a period of 7-21 days, PGCs gave rise to large multicellular colonies resembling those of mouse pluripotent stem cells termed embryonic stem and embryonic germ (EG) cells. Throughout the culture period most cells within the colonies continued to be alkaline phosphatase-positive and tested positive against a panel of five immunological markers (SSEA-1, SSEA-3, SSEA-4, TRA-1-60, and TRA-1-81) that have been used routinely to characterize embryonic stem and EG cells. The cultured cells have been continuously passaged and found to be karyotypically normal and stable. Both XX and XY cell cultures have been obtained. Immunohistochemical analysis of embryoid bodies collected from these cultures revealed a wide variety of differentiated cell types, including derivatives of all three embryonic germ layers. Based on their origin and demonstrated properties, these human PGC-derived cultures meet the criteria for pluripotent stem cells and most closely resemble EG cells.