A low molecular weight factor in a basal medium essential for erythrocytic Plasmodium falciparum development in a serum-free medium using a cell growth-promoting factor derived from adult bovine serum was detected. The factor was hypoxanthine. The optimal hypoxanthine concentration for parasite growth was between 15 and 120 μM. The contribution of hypoxanthine to increased parasite growth was clearly evident in cultures on day 4. Among various low molecular weight supplements tested, adenine, adenosine, AMP, ATP, cyclic AMP, guanine, guanosine, inosine, inosine mono-phosphate, xanthine, NAD, NADH, NADP, NADPH and deoxyguanosine triphosphate showed a similar effect to that of hypoxanthine in the serum-free culture system. On the other hand, the addition of uric acid, FAD, thymidine, uridine, orotic acid, deoxythymidine triphosphate, deoxycytidine triphosphate, deoxyadenosine triphosphate, ribose-1-phosphate, or ethanolamine was not beneficial to the parasite growth. The results presented here will not only be of practical value, but will provide important information about the developmental requirements of the parasite.