The germinal matrix of human brain gives rise to oligodendrocytes and astrocytes after mid-gestation. Hemorrhage in the germinal matrix of premature infants is associated with suppressed cell proliferation. We hypothesize that soluble blood constituents have an adverse effect on the proliferation of cultured rat subventricular zone (SVZ) cells and the proliferation, migration, and differentiation of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPC). Using caspase 3 activation and lactate dehydrogenase release assays, rat plasma, serum, thrombin, and kallikrein killed SVZ cells when grown in the presence (but not absence) of platelet derived growth factor. Plasma and serum killed OPC at 1:1 to 1:100 dilutions. Using a bromodeoxyuridine incorporation assay OPC proliferation was reduced by plasma, serum, thrombin and plasmin. Blood proteins also suppressed OPC migration in a concentration dependent manner. However, differentiation of OPC into myelin basic protein expressing cells was suppressed only by thrombin. We conclude that soluble blood components, particularly thrombin, have an adverse effect on maturing SVZ cells and OPC derived from newborn rat brain.