Human basophils were purified from normal peripheral blood, using density gradient followed by negative panning selection. We tested the effects of hemopoietic growth factors on the survival of these basophils in vitro. In the absence of exogenous factors, basophils (purity greater than 90%) decreased in number rapidly. At day 7 only 11% of the cells remained alive in cultures; less than 1% of cells survived at day 14. Interleukin (IL)-3 maintained numbers of viable cells; cell viability was 67% at day 7 and 45% at day 14. Granulocyte-macrophage (GM)-colony-stimulating factor (CSF) exhibited slight effect on the survival; 33% of cells remained at day 7. Other growth factors including granulocyte (G)-CSF, macrophage (M)-CSF, and IL-4 had no significant effect on the survival of basophils at all. Morphological and functional characterization of cells maintained by IL-3 revealed that they belonged to the basophil lineage. These observations indicate that normal basophils possess functional receptors for IL-3 and GM-CSF and that both factors modulate immediate- and delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions by prolonging the life span of basophils.