By using a methylcellulose clonal assay, we cultured peripheral blood erythropoietic precursors (BFU-E) from an adult couple whose child had HbF Malta-I(gamma 117 His leads to Arg), a G gamma variant, and measured the synthetic rates of HbA, HbF, and HbF Malta-I. Hemoglobin was labeled with 14C-amino acid in culture, separated by slab gel isoelectric focusing technique, and quantitated by autoradiographic or fluorographic method. Culture of BFU-E from both parents revealed significant HbF biosynthesis. HbF Malta-I was present in culture of the father's cells and comprised about 24% of total HbF. When we analyzed Hb biosynthesis in individual bursts, all bursts contained HbA and HbF in varying ratios. The frequency distribution of the individual bursts differing in percentages of HbF biosynthesis approached normal distribution. While the relative ratio of HbF Malta-I to total HbF biosynthesis in individual bursts also revealed significant variation, its frequency distribution did not show a normal distribution. There was a positive correlation between the ratios of HbF/Hb and HbF Malta- I/HbF in individual bursts.