Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are the embryonic progenitors of mature germ cells. During their proliferative stage, murine PGCs may be transiently cultured on mitotically inactive feeder layers. This culture system has permitted identification of several growth factors active toward PGCs. We and others have previously identified basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) as a powerful mitogen in this system. Here we characterize some of the functions of bFGF in PGC culture. Our data demonstrate that fibroblast growth factor (FGF) receptors I and II are present in the developing gonad and are consistent with expression of these receptors by PGCs. Moreover, PGCs can bind radiolabeled bFGF in vitro, demonstrating that the factor can act directly on these cells. While mitotic PGCs of either sex are shown to bind radiolabeled bFGF, oogonia that are undergoing meiotic arrest exhibit reduced bFGF binding, indicating potential developmental regulation of an FGF receptor.