Basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) is a multifunctional, heparin-binding, mitogenic polypeptide found in all tissues or cells of multicellular organisms so far examined. Here we report that Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense procyclic culture forms (PCF) and Leishmania donovani promastigotes grown in serum-containing and serum-free medium, contained peptides of 15-34 kDa which bound heparin-sepharose with high affinity and which reacted in immunoblots with several preparations of antibodies specific for bovine brain bFGF. Similar peptides were not detectable in foetal bovine serum. Immunofluorescence studies showed bFGF-like molecules to have a cytoplasmic distribution in both species growing in serum-free media. A nuclear and/or perinuclear distribution of immunoreactivity was also observed in parasites which had been grown in the presence of serum. The data indicate that both species of parasites synthesize their own bFGF-like molecules. Association of an ubiquitous growth factor with parasitic protozoa may play an important role in parasite multiplication and in host-parasite interactions.