We present a study on modification of culture conditions in serially cultured human bronchial epithelial cells (HBEC), necessary to achieve bronchial epithelial cells similar to the native epithelium. Cells were obtained from bronchial biopsies and serially cultured using a previously described method (In Vitro Cell. Dev. Biol. 1993; 29A:379-387). At the air-liquid interface, the second and the subsequent passages of HBEC cultures were grown 7 to 31 days, in medium containing fetal calf serum, using de-epidermized dermis or collagen discs as substratum. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy revealed ciliogenesis after 7 days and maturation of the cilia up to 31 days, irrespective of whether de-epidermized dermis or collagen membrane was used. The transmission electron microscopy of the developing cilia showed fibrogranular masses, procentrioles, basal bodies, and in the mature cilia a normal ultrastructure of the axoneme, the nine doublets, the central pair, radial spokes, and dynein arms in the ciliary shaft. In contrast, the submerged cultures showed no signs of ciliogenesis in the same time course. Results of experiments, in which cell seeding density, the substrate used, and the manner of nutrient supplementation were modulated, revealed that the air-exposure of the cultured HBEC is a necessary requirement for the ciliogenesis. The development pathway of ciliated cells in air-exposed HBEC cultures was similar to the differentiation and maturation pattern in human fetal tracheal cells. The in vitro model of human bronchial epithelial cells derived from biopsies obtained by fiberoptic bronchoscopy offers an attractive model for future studies on the function of human bronchial epithelial cells under normal and pathologic conditions.