The purpose of this study was to partially characterize the steroid binding activity of murine renal tumor cells in continuous culture. The steroid receptor content of a cloned renal tumor cell line (RAG) and a subline RAG-2 was examined by sucrose gradient analysis, hydroxylapatite and dextran-coated charcoal methods. The RAG cells lacked estrogen- and progestin-binding activity, whereas specific 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and dexamethasone (Dx) binding activities were detected as 8S peaks on low salt gradients. The specificity of DHT binding was examined by sucrose gradient analysis: DHT, R1881 and ORG2058 all completely inhibited [3H]DHT binding whereas diethylstilbestrol and Dx were ineffective. The androgen receptor content of the RAG cells was approx. 15 fmol/mg cytosol protein by the hydroxylapatite-filter assay, with an estimated Kd for methyltrienolone (R1881) of 5 nM at 0 degrees C. Scatchard analysis of [3H]Dx binding by RAG cytosol showed a Kd of 6 nM for Dx and 44 nM for corticosterone at 0 degrees C. Glucocorticoid receptor levels were estimated to be 182 fmol/mg cytosol protein by dextran-coated charcoal assay. Metabolism of [3H]testosterone and [3H]DHT by RAG cells was examined 1, 4 and 6 h after exposure to labeled hormone. Radioactive DHT was the primary intracellular metabolite recovered after exposure to [3H]testosterone. There was little conversion of DHT to androstanediol.