Circulating haemopoietic progenitor cells from premature infants were assessed for their ability to respond to interleukin 3, granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor and stem cell factor (SCF) in vitro. All three cytokines increased the number of colonies derived from burst forming units erythroid (BFU-E), colony forming units granulocyte-macrophage (CFU-GM) and multi-lineage progenitors (CFU-Mix) grown in the presence of erythropoietin (Epo). The size and haemoglobin content of BFU-E derived colonies also increased in the presence of the cytokines. Of those tested, SCF was found to be the most potent additive to Epo for the enhanced growth of BFU-E and CFU-Mix. In short-term liquid cultures without Epo, SCF alone induced globin synthesizing cells. Progenitors from premature infants were at least as responsive to all three cytokines as those from healthy adults. The use of SCF in combination with Epo in the prevention or treatment of anaemia in premature infants warrants further investigation.