Human brown pre-adipocytes were immortalized by microinjection of the genes encoding simian virus 40 T and t antigens under the control of the human vimentin promotor. The transfected pre-adipocytes were cultured for several months with no loss of their morphological characteristics. These cells accumulate lipids and differentiate into adipocytes when treated with insulin, triiodothyronine and dexamethazone. The mRNA of various adipocyte markers was detected by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis, including hormone-sensitive lipase, lipoprotein lipase, adipsin, glucose transporters 1 and 4, the uncoupling protein (specific of brown adipocytes), and leptin, the product of the ob gene. Pharmacological analyses indicated that the beta3-adrenoceptor is the predominant beta-adrenoceptor subtype in PAZ6 cells and that this receptor subtype is functionally coupled to adenylate cyclase and lipolysis. The immortalization of human adipocytes will permit pharmacological analysis of the human beta3-adrenoceptor function in adipose cells and will allow detailed studies of human adipocyte differentiation.