Telomerase activity is observed in most malignant tumors and germ cells, whereas normal somatic cells usually do not express it. Human endometrium is composed of glandular and stromal components and exhibits dramatic changes in proliferative activity during the menstrual cycle, which is exquisitely regulated by estrogen function. We previously reported that normal human endometrium expresses telomerase activity. However, it remains unclear which of the above components are the major sources of telomerase activity and how levels of telomerase activity are regulated over the menstrual cycle. Quantitative analysis of telomerase activity revealed that it changes dramatically over the course of the menstrual cycle and is strictly regulated in a menstrual-phase-dependent manner. Maximal activity equivalent to that in endometrial cancer was present in late proliferative phase, and minimal activity in late secretory phase. Postmenopausal endometrium and endometrium treated with anti-estrogen drugs exhibited decreased telomerase activity. Testing isolated epithelial glandular cells and stromal cells, we found that telomerase activity was localized to epithelial glandular cells. In situ RNA hybridization analysis also revealed epithelial-specific expression of human telomerase RNA. In vitro analysis of cultured epithelial cells demonstrated that telomerase activity is correlated with epithelial proliferation but not affected by estrogen treatment. These findings suggest that expression of telomerase activity is specific to epithelial cells and linked to cell proliferative status. The involvement of estrogen in telomerase regulation remains to be elucidated.