Genomic profiling was performed on explants of late proliferative phase human endometrium after 24-h treatment with progesterone (P) or oestradiol and progesterone (17beta-E(2)+P) and on explants of menstrual phase endometrium treated with 17beta-E(2)+P. Gene expression was validated with real-time PCR in the samples used for the arrays, in endometrium collected from early and mid-secretory phase endometrium, and in additional experiments performed on new samples collected in the menstrual and late proliferative phase. The results show that late proliferative phase human endometrium is more responsive to progestins than menstrual phase endometrium, that the expression of several genes associated with embryo implantation (i.e. thrombomodulin, monoamine oxidase A, SPARC-like 1) can be induced by P in vitro, and that genes that are fully dependent on the continuous presence of 17beta-E(2) during P exposure can be distinguished from those that are P-dependent to a lesser extent. Therefore, 17beta-E(2) selectively primes implantation-related genes for the effects of P.