We have tested 35 teratogenic and 20 nonteratogenic chemicals or drugs in a short-term, in vitro assay that identifies teratogens by their ability to inhibit growth of an established line of human embryonic palatal mesenchymal cells. Only those chemicals that exhibited a dose-dependent inhibition of growth at concentrations less than 1 mM were classified as inhibitory. An Aroclor-induced rat liver S-9 system was effective in metabolizing cyclophosphamide to its teratogenic form in culture. We suggest that this assay, along with the complementary tumor cell-attachment assay of Braun et al. [Braun, A. G., Emerson, D. J. & Nichinson, B. B. (1979) Nature (London) 282, 507-509] may be useful as a short-term in vitro battery for assessment of the teratogenic potential in environmental agents and to prioritize those chemicals which merit further testing in vivo.