The insulin-like growth factor autocrine/paracrine system is believed to play a role in steroid-mediated endometrial differentiation. It is constituted of the mitogenic peptides (IGF-I and IGF-II), membrane receptors, and a family of high-affinity binding proteins (IGFBPs) that regulate the actions of the IGFs at their target cells. We have investigated expression of the mRNAs encoding the three major IGFBPs (IGFBP-1, IGFBP-2, and IGFBP-3) in human endometrium and have found, by Northern analysis, differential expression of all three mRNAs in secretory compared to proliferative endometrium, different steroidal milieux. IGF-II mRNAs were also detected in secretory endometrium. Finally, we found that human endometrial stromal cells in culture synthesize and secrete IGFBP-2 and IGFBP-3, and that the synthesis of IGFBP-2 is regulated by steroid hormones.