Genomics efforts of the past decade have resulted in the identification of numerous genes with putative roles in disease processes, including tumor angiogenesis. To functionally validate these genes, cultured endothelial cells are indispensable tools, though these may not completely mimic the phenotype of tissue endothelial cells as the proper microenvironment is lacking. To obtain experimental data representative of normal physiology, the use of primary endothelial cells is preferred. However, these cells are usually limited in passage number, can be difficult to obtain and show great interindividual variety. Furthermore, transfection efficiency is very limited in primary cells, hampering applications in functional genomics and gene function analysis. The use of properly characterized alternative endothelial cell sources is therefore warranted. Here, we compared immortalized endothelial cells - HMEC, RF24 and EVLC2 - with primary HUVEC. We show that RF24, and to a slightly lesser extent HMEC, resembles primary HUVEC most on all facets examined. RF24, in contrast to EVLC2, express the endothelial markers CD31, CD34, CD105, vWF and VE-cadherin, and are capable of migration and tube formation in vitro. Furthermore, the expression levels of angiogenic growth factors and their receptors are comparable to that of primary EC. In addition, whereas primary HUVEC are resistant to transfection using common lipophilic transfection reagents, HMEC and RF24 could be readily transfected. Hence, these cells pose a valuable tool for functional genomics in angiogenesis research.