Yeast cells of Candida albicans are induced by serum at 37 degrees C to produce germ tubes, the first step in a transition from yeast to hyphal growth. Previously, it has been shown that the active component is not serum albumin but is present in the dialysable fraction of serum. In this study, serum induction of germ-tube formation is shown to occur even in the presence of added exogenous nitrogen sources and is therefore not signalled by nitrogen derepression. The active component in serum was purified by ion-exchange, reverse-phase and size-exclusion chromatography from the dialysable fraction of serum and was identified by NMR to be d-glucose. Enzymic destruction of glucose, using glucose oxidase, demonstrated that d-glucose was the only active component in these fractions. Induction of germ-tube formation by d-glucose required a temperature of 37 degrees C and the pH optimum was between pH 7.0 and 8.0. d-Glucose induced germ-tube formation in a panel of clinical isolates of C. albicans. Although d-glucose is the major inducer in serum, a second non-dialysable, trichloroacetic acid precipitable inducer is also present. However, whereas either 1.4 % (v/v) serum or an equivalent concentration of d-glucose induced 50 % germ-tube formation, the non-dialysable component required a 10-fold higher concentration to induce 50 % germ-tube formation. Serum is, therefore, the most effective induction medium for germ-tube formation because it is buffered at about pH 8.5 and contains two distinct inducers (glucose and a non-dialysable component), both active at this pH.