Effects of folate deficiency on the rate of apoptosis in human cytotrophoblastic cells has been investigated. Apoptosis was determined in cytotrophoblastic cells after culture in 1. control medium, 2. folate-free medium and 3. folate-free medium plus 10% fetal calf serum. Apoptosis rates in cells cultured in mediums 2 and 3 were significantly higher than those cultured in the control medium (P < 0.02 and P < 0.03, respectively). In conclusion, human cytotrophoblastic cells show a significantly increased rate of apoptosis in vitro after culture in a folate-free medium. Possible explanations for the association between folate deficiency and pregnancy complications are suggested.