The micro-agar-culture technique for cloning early and late erythropoietic progenitor cells (BFU-E and CFU-E) was further modified and miniaturized in order to study the optimal growth conditions with a minimal consumption of erythropoietin (EP). Using microtiter plates, the total incubation volume was lowered from 0.5 to 0.1 ml and thus reduced the necessary amount of EP and cells by a factor of 5. The method consists of a 50 microliter agar layer, in which the mononuclear cells are suspended, and a 50 microliter liquid overlayer containing bovine serum albumin (BSA), transferrin (TF), and EP. After a seven- or 14-day incubation, the whole agar layers were fixed, transferred to microscopic slides, dried, stained using the Pappenheim method, and permanently preserved. The influences of FCS, BSA, and TF in the presence of EP were studied on the proliferation of human bone marrow CFU-E and BFU-E. The variation of FCS concentration showed an optimum at 10%. The addition of BSA in the presence of optimal concentrations of EP markedly increased the number of BFU-E, but not CFU-E. Furthermore, the threshold concentration of EP required for the initial burst formation could be reduced by half in the presence of BSA. By the addition of TF, a further increase in the number of BFU-E was obtained.