Basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) has been thought to act as a neurotrophic factor during early developmental stages in various brain regions, including the hypothalamus. In the present paper, we have studied the effect of bFGF on peptide-containing neurons cultured from the postnatal (1–3 days and 14 days after birth) rat hypothalamus. The addition of bFGF, or acid FGF (aFGF), to serum-free culture medium increased both survival and neurite growth of growth hormone-releasing factor (GRF)-containing neurons. The potency of bFGF was more than 10 times as great as that of aFGF. Insulinlike growth factor I (IGF-1) did not have any significant effect on the survival of GRF neurons. Further, neither IGF-1 nor aFGF modified the survival-promoting effect of bFGF on GRF neurons. bFGF promoted the survival of somatostatin- and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-containing neurons, too.