Placenta growth factor (PlGF) is a growth factor which belongs to the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family and is known to bind to the fms-like tyrosine kinase receptor (flt-1). Using Western blot analysis a 50 kDa band was identified in placental protein extract which corresponded to PlGF homodimer. Immunoreactive PlGF was localised to the vasculosyncytial membrane and in the media of large blood vessels of the placental villi, while staining within the mesenchyme was weak and diffuse. There was moderate staining for PlGF in discrete cells in the chorion and no staining in the epithelial layer of the amnion. The maternal decidual cells showed strong staining for PlGF immunoreactive protein. PlGF mRNA was predominantly expressed by the vasculosyncytial membrane of villous trophoblast, whilst there was no apparent expression of PlGF mRNA within the villous mesenchyme. These results suggest that PlGF may be an important paracrine factor for vascular endothelial cells in placental angiogenesis and an autocrine mediator of trophoblast function.