Ghrelin, a GH-releasing acylated peptide, has been recently identified from the rat stomach. The purified peptide consists of 28 amino acids in which the serine 3 residue is n-octanoylated. Here we show that ghrelin messenger RNA and ghrelin peptide are present in the human as well as in rat placentae. In human placenta, ghrelin was detected by PCR at both first trimester and after delivery. While ghrelin was not detected by immunohistochemistry in human placenta at term, it was easily identified by immunohistochemistry at first trimester being mainly expressed in cytotrophoblast cells and scarcely in syncytiotrophoblast ones. Ghrelin was also identified in a human choriocarcinoma cell line, the BeWo cells. Ghrelin was found, by immunohistochemistry, in the cytoplasm of labyrinth trophoblast of rat placenta, whereas other placental cell types seems to be negative for ghrelin immunostaining. Moreover, placental ghrelin messenger RNA, in pregnant rats, showed a characteristic profile of expression being practically undetectable during early pregnancy, with a sharp peak of expression at day 16 and decreasing in the latest stages of gestation. In conclusion, ghrelin has been detected in human and rat placenta showing a pregnancy-related time course of expression. Whether placenta-derived ghrelin is involved in the modulation of GH release, or placental cell growth and differentiation remains to be established.