Because of the inherent difficulties of experimentation in intact animals, we used primary monolayer cultures of non-proliferating adult rat hepatocytes to study the effects of fibrinogen degradation products on fibrinogen biosynthesis. The freshly isolated hepatocytes obtained by collagenase perfusion of the liver in situ were cultured in a chemically defined serum-free medium. The rate of fibrinogen synthesis in control cultures was 40-50 pmol/2.5 X 10(6) cells per 24 h. Additions of 20, 60 or 100 micrograms of homologous stage I fibrinogen degradation products had no effect on fibrinogen synthesis. In contrast, addition of the same amounts of homologous or heterologous (human) stage III fibrinogen degradation products resulted in a concentration-dependent increase in fibrinogen biosynthesis without affecting the rate of synthesis of albumin. When purified stage III fibrinogen degradation products D and E (human) were tested in 10, 30 or 50 micrograms/3 ml medium only fragment E showed a significant increase in fibrinogen biosynthesis (1.9-, 2.8- and 5.6-fold, respectively, over the control cultures). The presence of excess fibrinogen had no effect. These results suggest that fibrinogen fragment E may be a specific stimulator of fibrinogen biosynthesis which may play an important role in maintaining normal levels of plasma fibrinogen.