Human placentation is mediated by fetal trophoblastic cells which penetrate into the decidualized uterine endometrium. Trophoblast invasion requires the precisely regulated secretion of specific proteinases able to degrade the endometrial basement membranes and extracellular matrix. To document further the involvement of these proteinases during human placentation, we evaluated in vivo the expression of stromelysin-3, a member of the metalloproteinase family, during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy, by means of immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization and Northern blot analysis. Human extravillous trophoblasts invading the maternal decidua produced stromelysin-3 during both, the first and third trimesters of pregnancy, but to a lesser extent during the latter. In floating villi, stromelysin-3 expression was restricted to the syncytiotrophoblasts that line intervillous vascular spaces. In conclusion, stromelysin-3 is expressed by differentiated, non-proliferative villous and extravillous trophoblastic cells in early and late placental beds and villi, and its pattern of expression evolves during pregnancy. Our observations suggest that stromelysin-3 could play a role in human placentation.