When rat serum was subjected to gel filtration on a Sephadex G-200 column, a factor, "hepatotropin", that promoted hepatocyte growth in primary culture was separated. Its Mr was about 150 KD and it was an anionic protein that was unstable on acid- and heat-treatments. Hepatotropin was purified 20-fold further by affinity chromatography on heparin-Sepharose CL-6B. The purified hepatotropin was effective at 20 micrograms/ml and maximally effective at 120 micrograms/ml, and its effect was additive with that of insulin plus epidermal growth factor. In rats after partial hepatectomy, the hepatotropin activity in the serum increased time-dependently reaching a maximum of about 5-fold the initial level 24 h after the operation. Various known growth factors, such as fibroblast growth factor, platelet derived growth factor, somatomedin, thrombin and transferrin, did not stimulate DNA synthesis in cultured hepatocytes. These results suggest that hepatotropin is a new growth factor.