The American and European strains of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus were initially isolated in an established cell line (CL 2621) and porcine alveolar macrophages (PAM), respectively. Subsequent isolation of American strains of this virus in PAM has also been reported. To determine their relative sensitivity for virus isolation, both PAM and CL 2621 cells were inoculated with 98 tissue specimens and 73 serum samples from animals suspected of having PRRS. Four of the 98 tissue samples yielded virus in both cell types, whereas 7 samples were positive only in PAM and 4 samples only in CL 2621. Of the 73 serum samples tested, 18 were positive in PAM of which only 2 were positive in CL 2621. Additionally, 82 isolates obtained initially in CL 2621 were inoculated in PAM cells, and 18 strains isolated originally in PAM were inoculated in CL 2621. Of the 82 CL 2621 isolates, 25 could not be propagated on PAM. Of the 57 that replicated in PAM, as detected by a positive test on indirect fluorescent antibody test, only 28 produced cytopathic effects and 29 did not. Of the 18 PAM isolates, 5 did not grow on CL 2621. Although PAM were relatively more sensitive for virus isolation, their failure to support the growth of certain strains of PRRS virus indicates the existence of variants among PRRS virus strains, and both PAM and CL 2621 should be used for virus isolation from clinical samples. In addition, the sensitivity of these 2 cell types was compared for the detection of fluorescent antibodies to PRRS virus using 179 serum samples from PRRS-infected animals. The results were comparable in both cell systems.