Distinction of endometrial stromal neoplasms from cellular smooth muscle tumors of the uterus is sometimes difficult. Immunohistochemistry is often not helpful because muscle actins and desmin are expressed in both neoplasms. This study's goal was to determine whether h-caldesmon, a smooth muscle-specific isoform of a calcium, calmodulin, and actin binding protein, could effectively distinguish endometrial stromal tumors from uterine smooth muscle tumors. The authors analyzed immunohistochemical expression in 24 endometrial stromal neoplasms (21 sarcomas and three nodules), 29 leiomyosarcomas, 32 leiomyomas (10 "usual," 14 cellular leiomyoma, and eight "highly cellular" types), 40 myometria, and 25 endometria. h-Caldesmon was diffusely positive in all myometria, leiomyomata, and leiomyosarcomas. Of note, 16 leiomyosarcomas (55%) were positive for h-caldesmon in more than 50% of tumor cells. In five "highly cellular" leiomyomas, h-caldesmon expression was markedly decreased or absent in areas morphologically resembling endometrial stromal tumors, raising the possibility that these tumors may be mixed smooth muscle-endometrial stromal neoplasms. In contrast, h-caldesmon expression was absent in all endometria and endometrial stromal neoplasms apart from accompanying small vessels. Desmin was diffusely positive in all myometria and leiomyomata. The fraction of cells expressing desmin was greater than that of h-caldesmon in only 10% of leiomyosarcomas. Focal desmin expression was also present in eight of 25 (32%) endometria and 12 of 24 (50%) endometrial stromal neoplasms. h-Caldesmon appears to be a more sensitive and specific marker of smooth muscle differentiation in the uterus than desmin and may be a useful tool for distinguishing and classifying uterine mesenchymal tumors.