Previously we reported [Packer, L. & Smith, J.R. (1974) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 71, 4763-4767] that the lifespan of WI-38 human diploid fibroblasts in vitro was significantly increased by continuously growing the cell cultures in the presence of vitamin E(dl-alpha-tocopherol), but in 19 subsequent subcultivation series we were unable to reproduce these findings. While vitamin E is incorporated into the cells and is able to act effectively as an antioxidant, apparantly is intracellular antioxidant properties alone do not routinely result in an increase of cell lifespan. A synergism between vitamin E and some component(s) in the first of two lots of serum used in the original experiments seems the most likely explanation for our earlier findings.