Human mononuclear leukocytes produce a growth factor (HGF) for hybridoma and plasmacytoma cells. HGF has recently been proven to be identical to IFN-β2, 26-kDa protein and BSF-2. HGF can be quantitated in a proliferation assay with the HGF-dependent hybridoma cell line B13.29. By selection of an extremely sensitive variant of this cell line, we were able to measure HGF production of single cells. Limiting dilution analysis of the producing cells in combination with size, density and adherence characteristics showed that HGF is produced by monocytes and not by lymphocytes. There was no need for the monocytes to be stimulated but the cells did require the presence of serum. This serum requirement could be met by purified bovine serum albumin, but not by other proteins like ovalbumin or human γ-globulin. HGF production in vitro by monocytes starts after 2 h of incubation and is completed within 24 h.