Cell-lines derived from human placenta and chorion have been used extensively to model the endocrine functions of human trophoblast. In general terms, the endocrine functions of the primary cells and tissues are at least partially replicated within the cell-lines, suggesting that they may be used as appropriate models. There are, however, two major provisos that compromise this generalisation. Firstly, the endocrine function of placenta represents a complex interaction between cytotrophoblast, syncytiotrophoblast and multiple regulators, so a single cell population digested from the normal environment is unlikely to represent this. Secondly, the characterisation of primary trophoblast populations and of cell-lines is incomplete, complicating the assignment of functions to trophoblast populations. Despite these difficulties, useful information has been obtained from the available cell-lines, regardless of whether they have arisen spontaneously, been transformed in vitro, or derived from cancers in vivo.