Several reports deal with possible effects of female sex hormones on human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) including elasticity, activation of plasma membrane Na+/H+ exchange, VEGF receptor Flk-1/KDR and many others. In contrast to those findings, some publications pointed out that HUVEC lack expression of both the estrogen receptor (ER) and/or the progesterone receptor (PR). Because the majority of these investigations were carried out at a time period, when only one ER and one PR was known, the aim of this study was the systematic analysis of ERalpha and ERbeta as well as PR-A and PR-B expression in HUVEC with specific monoclonal antibodies by immunocytochemistry and quantitative RT-PCR (TaqMan). As a result, we could show that HUVEC lack ERalpha but express ERbeta. The expression of ERbeta could be significantly upregulated with 17beta-estradiol on mRNA and protein level. In addition, HUVEC express PR-A but not PR-B. PR-A expression could be significantly upregulated with progesterone, again on mRNA and protein level. We conclude that estrogenic effects on HUVEC are mediated via the ERbeta and gestagens act via the PR-A pathway.