The effects of E2 are dependent on ERs and local E2 concentration in target cells. Modulation of intracellular E2 concentration involves the action of 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17HSD) type 2, the enzyme converting E2 to estrone. In the present study, the influence of RAs on the growth of endometrial cancer cell line RL 95-2 as well as the expression of ERs and 17HSD type 2 have been investigated. It was found that RAs repress the growth of RL 95-2 cells, which express all subtypes of RXR and RAR, as examined by RT-PCR. Also, quantitative RT-PCR analysis showed that both ERalpha and ERbeta are present in RL 95-2 cells, and Western blot assay further revealed that ERalpha expression was decreased by all trans-RA treatment. In contrast, RAs induced 17HSD type 2 mRNA expression in a dose- and time-dependent fashion. This stimulatory effect was also detected at the level of in vivo oxidative 17HSD activity in cultured cells. On the other hand, the abundance of 17HSD type 2 mRNA was not altered by RAs in cultured normal epithelial cells isolated from human early- and late-secretory endometrium. The data indicate that RAs have an inhibitory effect on the growth of RL 95-2 cells and a cross-talk with the estrogen pathway in estrogen-responsive endometrial cancer cells.