An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay has been developed to measure human Müllerian inhibiting substance (MIS) in biological fluids. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay is specific for MIS, with a sensitivity in human serum to 0.5 ng/ml and does not recognize transforming growth factor-beta 1 or -beta 2, LH, or FSH. It similarly fails to recognize other proteins secreted from the cell type into which the MIS gene was cloned. MIS was detected in the serum of normal newborns, infants, children, and adults. In males the serum level of MIS is 10-70 ng/mL at birth. The level increases slightly after birth, and then decreases to a basal level of 2-5 ng/mL after the first 10 yr of life. Newborn male urine contains minimal amounts of MIS (0.5 ng/mL). In females MIS is barely detectable in serum at birth, but rises to the basal level equal to that seen in males after 10 yr of age. Similar basal levels of MIS were found in adult ovarian follicular fluid. MIS levels were high in the serum of a female patient with a sex cord tumor (3200 ng/mL), but fell to 100 ng/mL after multiple excisional operations. In addition, a serum MIS level of 20 ng/mL was detected in a patient with an ovarian granulosa cell tumor. A sensitive assay for MIS could be useful in the diagnosis of patients with congenital abnormalities of sexual development and patients with Sertoli cell and/or other MIS-producing neoplasms. Other applications may also be recognized as the biology of MIS in both males and females is further elucidated.