An in vitro migration assay system for the study of hematopoietic cell migration was established. Using a large well modification of earlier described migration chambers, it was found that, in the presence of whole murine serum from either normal or aplastic mice, a heterogeneous population of cells was stimulated to migrate through limited size pores (8 mu) in a thin (5 mu) polycarbonate filter. In dilution studies, serum obtained from animals that had been rendered aplastic by total body irradiation provided a stronger migration stimulus than serum from normal animals. This observation is consistent with observations of hematopoietic cell migration in vivo. Primitive spleen colony-forming cells and in vitro granulocyte/macrophage colony-forming cells were present in the migrating population at a comparable fraction to that found in untreated bone marrow. These studies demonstrate the feasibility of studying hematopoietic stem cell migration under controlled experimental conditions.