We immunohistochemically investigated the localization of activin A and follistatin in various human tissues with specific antibodies to recombinant human (rh-) activin A and rh-follistatin. Specific immunostaining of activin A was detected in Leydig and Sertoli cells of the testis. In the ovary, granulosa cells of mature follicle and luteal cells of the corpus luteum stained for activin A. Immunoreactive activin A was present in somatotrophs of the pituitary gland and insulin-positive B cells of the pancreatic islets. Immunoreactivity for activin A was also found in thyroid follicular cells, adrenocortical cells, neuronal cells of the cerebrum and monocytoid cells in the bone marrow. Follistatin, an activin-binding protein, was immunostained in the same tissues as activin A. These findings indicated that activin A and follistatin are widely distributed in human tissues, suggesting that activin plays important roles as a common regulator in various tissues under the control of co-existing follistatin.