A number of androgen effects on epithelial cells may be mediated by androgen-regulated paracrine factors produced by underlying mesenchymal cells. In previous studies we demonstrated that prostatic stromal cells and testicular peritubular cells, derived from immature rats, produce mediators of androgen action with identical effects on Sertoli cells. In the present paper we further compared the morphological and functional characteristics of both mesenchymal cell types. Cultured prostatic stromal cells and testicular peritubular cells look identical under phase-contrast microscopy, share the ability to form tubular structures and "balls" when cocultured with Sertoli cells, and contain proteins immunoreactive with an antiserum against alpha-smooth muscle isoactin. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis shows that the pattern of proteins produced by both cell types is nearly identical. Conditioned media from stromal and peritubular cells contain a factor that stimulates transferrin and cGMP production in Sertoli cells. The behavior of the active principle in the media from both cell types is comparable. On reverse-phase HPLC the elution profile of this factor is comparable for media from both cell types. In conclusion, these data point to a striking similarity in the morphological and functional characteristics of mesenchymal cells cultured from the prostate and testis.