Primary central nervous system (CNS) atypical teratoid/malignant rhabdoid tumors (ATT/RhT) occur during early childhood and are almost invariably fatal. Expression of multiple phenotypes in ATT/RhT suggests the presence of an undifferentiated progenitor with the potential to differentiate along multiple lines. These properties have made it difficult to characterize the etiology and histogenesis of these tumors and complicate efforts to develop targeted therapies. This paper characterizes the immunophenotype of a human CNS ATT/RhT and describes the properties of a derivative cell line (Atrt95) which retained morphological and immunochemical characteristics of the parent tumor including diverse differentiation. Most tumor cells were strongly immunoreactive for glial flbrillary acidic protein, vimentin and A2BS. Scattered, large tumor cells that showed a rhabdoid phenotype were immunoreactive for synaptophysin. The morphology of cultured Atrt95 cells was heterogeneous, but often fit into 1 of 3 classes that appeared to correspond to cell populations observed within the parent tumor including: 1) tightly-packed small-cell colonies, 2) large, well-spread highly motile cells and 3) arrays of elongated cells. In vitro assays demonstrated that growth of the entire culture was anchorage-dependent but not serum-dependent. Transplantation of Atrt95 cells into the rat spinal cord resulted in tumor growth and CNS invasion. Preliminary cytogenetics study revealed complex aneuploidy but no apparent monosomy or deletions of chromosome 22. The immunophenotype of this neoplasm and derivative cell line is consistent with a primitive glioneuronal lineage and its in vitro characteristics are that of an invasive malignancy similar to the naturally occurring tumor. This unique cell line (Atrt95) provides a valuable model to study the biology and genetics of the CNS ATT/RhT.