Because of the scarcity of techniques for synchronizing the growth of cultured human diploid fibroblasts at multiple stages within the cell cycle, efforts were expended in this report to establish a set of protocols that would permit synchronization of cells at several different points throughout the cycle. The protocols that were developed to synchronize the growth of HSF-24 and HSF-55 cells, human foreskin-derived fibroblast cultures, were modifications of procedures employed to synchronize the growth of cultured rodent cells. Optimization of synchrony induction was directed by consideration of both the biochemical properties of the synchronized populations (determined via three-parameter flow cytometric measurements of DNA, RNA, and protein contents) and their kinetic behavior following reversal of the synchronization-inducing blockade (determined via combined flow cytometric analysis of DNA content, [3H]thymidine autoradiography, and measurement of increase in cell number). The conditions judged to yield the best results for studying events associated with production of a G0 block or for maintaining cells for prolonged periods in G0 were those in which the cells were grown to confluency in D-MEM supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum. Procedures producing the best results for studying processes associated with the G0 to G1 transition, G1 events, and operations accompanying the transition from G1 to S, employed subconfluent growth for 48 h in alpha-MEM + 0.1% fetal bovine serum (alpha-MEM0.1F) followed by resuspension in alpha-MEM containing 10% fetal bovine serum (alpha-MEM10F). When the goal was to obtain cells in which to study very early S-phase events, satisfactory results were achieved by combining a 48-h period of subconfluent growth in alpha-MEM0.1F, followed by treatment for 24 h in alpha-MEM10F containing 5 micrograms/ml aphidicolin. For study of events occurring in mid- to late-cycle, acceptable results were achieved by combining a 48-h block in alpha-MEM0.1F with resuspension for 24 h in alpha-MEM10F containing 10(-3) M hydroxyurea followed by resuspension in drug-free alpha-MEM10F. The best results were obtained with these latter synchronization procedures (i.e., low-serum/high-serum + APC or HU/high serum) when the fetal calf serum was replaced with heat-inactivated calf serum. The success achieved in synchronizing the growth of these human diploid fibroblasts compared favorably/exceeded the results obtained with synchronized cultures of Chinese hamster ovary cells.