Estrogen has various effects on adipose tissue. Although the presence of estrogen receptor (ER) has been demonstrated in rat adipose tissue and adipocytes, ER has not been identified in human adipose tissue. In this study, we demonstrated the existence of ER protein and ER messenger RNA (mRNA) in human sc adipose tissue and adipocytes. The cytosol fraction of human adipose tissue was partially purified by ammonium sulfate precipitation, and the presence of ER protein was analyzed by [3H]estradiol (E2) binding assay and Western blot analysis. [3H]E2 binding assay showed a low specific binding due to high nonspecific binding, and the dissociation constant (Kd) and maximal binding sites could not be obtained by Scatchard analysis. Western blots, however, showed the presence of ER protein in both the partially purified cytosol and nuclear fractions of human adipose tissue. The mol wt of ER in both fractions was approximately 66,000. Furthermore, Northern blot analysis of total RNA samples isolated from human adipose tissue showed the expression of ER mRNA at 6.2 kilobase in size. ER mRNA was also identified in isolated human adipocytes by the reverse transcription and polymerase chain reaction. These results indicated that both ER protein and ER mRNA are expressed in human adipocytes, suggesting that the effect of estrogen on human adipose tissues might involve a direct action.