The potential contributions of placental extraction and degradation to glucoregulatory hormone turnover in late pregnancy were assessed by measuring arteriovenous differences for glucose, insulin, glucagon and human placental lactogen (hPL) across the uterine and fetal circulation in ten pregnant women at the time of elective caesarean section. The observations were made during stable conditions of euglycaemia; values for maternal arterial glucose, insulin, glucagon and hPL were 78.8 +/- 5.0 mg/dl, 10.1 +/- 2.1 microU/ml, 72.0 +/- 8.5 pg/ml and 5.18 +/- 0.59 micrograms/ml, respectively. The glucose decrements observed consistently across the uterus and fetus indicated uptake by the placenta and fetus, and in the maternal circulation the arterial-uterine vein increment for hPL was 2.10 +/- 0.44 micrograms/ml. However, within the limits of analytical accuracy, no significant gradient could be demonstrated for insulin across the uterine (maternal) or umbilical (fetal) circulations. A small (8.5 per cent) but significant arteriovenous difference for glucagon was observed across the uterus but none was found on the fetal side of the placenta. The findings indicate that detectable gradients for insulin cannot be demonstrated under basal conditions of metabolism and at normal rates of placental blood flow. The results do not exclude the possibility of more significant extraction ratios under other physiological conditions or at higher concentrations of glucoregulatory hormones.