Vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) migration is a pivotal early step in blood vessel remodeling; however, very little is known about the regulation of this process in the human endometrium during the menstrual cycle. In this study, explants of human endometrium were incubated with estradiol and/or progesterone and the conditioned medium (CM) applied to cultures of VSMC to test the hypothesis that estrogen and progesterone stimulate endometrial cells to secrete a factor(s) that promotes VSMC migration. Endometrial explants were composed of highly organized glands and stroma. VSMC migration (cells migrated in 21 h/mm(2) fibronectin-coated semipermeable membrane) in the presence of CM from human endometrial explants obtained in the proliferative phase of the menstrual cycle and incubated for 24 h with estradiol was approximately threefold greater (P < 0.001) than with medium alone and greater (P < 0.05) than with CM from explants treated with estradiol plus progesterone or progesterone. It is concluded, therefore, that estrogen stimulates endometrial secretion of a factor(s) that promotes VSMC migration as an early step in vessel remodeling within the endometrium.