A single cell clonal line which responds reversibly to nerve growth factor (NGF) has been established from a transplantable rat adrenal pheochromocytoma. This line, designated PC12, has a homogeneous and near-diploid chromosome number of 40. By 1 week's exposure to NGF, PC12 cells cease to multiply and begin to extend branching varicose processes similar to those produced by sympathetic neurons in primary cell culture. By several weeks of exposure to NGF, the PC12 processes reach 500-1000 mum in length. Removal of NGF is followed by degeneration of processes within 24 hr and by resumption of cell multiplication within 72 hr. PC12 cells grown with or without NGF contain dense core chromaffin-like granules up to 350 nm in diameter. The NGF-treated cells also contain small vesicles which accumulate in process varicosities and endings. PC12 cells synthesize and store the catecholamine neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. The levels (per mg of protein) of catecholamines and of the their synthetic enzymes in PC12 cells are comparable to or higher than those found in rat adrenals. NGF-treatment of PC12 cells results in no change in the levels of catecholamines or of their synthetic enzymes when expressed on a per cell basis, but does result in a 4- to 6-fold decrease in levels when expressed on a per mg of protein basis. PC12 cells do not synthesize epinephrine and cannot be induced to do so by treatment with dexamethasone. The PC12 cell line should be a useful model system for neurobiological and neurochemical studies.