Lactoferrin (LTF), an iron-binding glycoprotein present in most exocrine secretions and in the secondary granules of polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMN), is regulated by estrogen in the mouse reproductive tract. We investigated the expression of LTF mRNA and protein during the natural estrous cycle to increase our understanding of how this uterine secretory protein is regulated under physiological conditions. There was a positive correlation between LTF mRNA expression in the genital tract and serum estradiol (E2) concentrations. When E2 peaked in proestrus, LTF mRNA and protein were expressed in the uterus; however, during metestrus, when both E2 and progesterone levels were high, LTF mRNA was expressed, while LTF protein was decreasing. LTF protein expression may be hindered by progesterone or some other local factor in the endometrial epithelium after ovulation. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated two distinct staining patterns for LTF in the vaginal and endometrial epithelium. In one staining pattern, the colorimetric reaction was noted over the cytoplasm, and in the other, the nuclear region stained more intensely. This suggests the possibility that in addition to its known role as a secretory protein, LTF may be transported to the nucleus, serving an autocrine role. Our results also indicated that LTF protein is a useful marker for tracking PMN. Nonproliferating epithelial cells in the vagina and endometrium may synthesize chemotactic and/or adhesion molecules for PMN.