Hairy root cultures were induced by inoculating cotyledonary leaves and hypocotyl segments from two cotton species, Gossypium hirsutum and Gossypium barbadense, with Rhizobium rhizogenes 15834. For both species, more hairy roots formed on inoculation sites on cotyledonary leaves than on hypocotyls. The addition of sucrose to basal Murashige-Skoog media increased the frequency of hairy root formation, whereas the addition of naphthalene acetic acid (0.54 μM) did not. After transfer to a liquid culture, hairy root growth was very rapid. After 3 wk in liquid culture, both cotton species produced gossypol, a di-sesquiterpene secondary metabolite with known anticancer activity, and two related methylated derivatives. Most (60-95%) gossypol produced by cultures was retained within the hairy root tissues, but some was found in the media. The average gossypol level observed among 96 different cultures was 15 mg/g of dry culture mass; however, some cultures produced >40 mg/g of dry culture mass. Variation in gossypol levels was greater for cultures arising from different transformation events than for multiple subclones of a single transformant. The high level of gossypol production attained by most of these cultures suggests that they will be valuable for studying the biochemical and molecular aspects of gossypol biosynthesis, capable of producing large amounts of gossypol and related compounds, and useful for generating modified forms of gossypol (e.g., radio-labeled gossypol) for understanding bioactivity mechanisms.