Prostaglandins exhibit a variety of actions on intestinal smooth muscle depending upon the type, dose and muscle layer studied. As the cellular origin of prostaglandin H (PGH) synthase has not been established with certainty in the human gut wall, we studied the localization of PGH synthase in the human duodenum, jejunum, ileum and colon by immunohistochemistry. PGH synthase immunoreactivity appeared to be similar in all segments of the intestine. Most smooth muscle cells seemed to contain PGH synthase; however, the reaction in the lamina muscularis mucosae was much stronger than in the longitudinal and circular muscle layers. Endothelial cells in capillaries and larger vessels showed a positive reaction. In addition, unidentified cells in subserosa, at the level of Auerbach's plexus and in the submucosa were stained. We concluded that the smooth muscle cells of the human gut has a rather large capacity for PGH synthesis and the present results may provide a basis for a better understanding of both normal physiological functions as well as intestinal disease states involving disorders of prostaglandin synthesis.