Proliferin (PLF) is a PRL-related glycoprotein secreted by a number of mouse cell lines and by minced mouse placenta. To further investigate the hormone-like characteristics of PLF, we have determined the site of PLF synthesis and storage in the placenta and its concentration in blood serum during pregnancy. By immunohistochemical staining and in situ hybridization PLF protein and messenger RNA (mRNA) were localized to the trophoblastic giant cells. Individual cells contained both PLF and placental lactogen II. Trophoblastic giant cells appear to secrete PLF into the circulation since PLF was found at levels up to 5 micrograms/ml in the serum of pregnant mice by RIA and at somewhat lower concentrations in the amniotic fluid. Moreover, the serum concentration of PLF during pregnancy varied directly with the level of PLF mRNA in the placenta and with the number of placentas per animal. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that PLF is a placental hormone; its function is not known.