The visceral yolk sac is, in the rat, an organ which possesses true placental functions. We recently showed that yolk sac is involved in the control of metabolism and action of vitamin D in the fetoplacental unit, since its endodermal cells contain a 24-hydroxylase for vitamin D metabolites and the 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D receptor. In the present work, by using indirect immunoperoxidase staining, we demonstrate that an immunoreactive vitamin D-binding protein (DBP) is present in this yolk sac throughout embryonic and fetal development. It is mainly located at the apex of the endodermal cells. Immunoprecipitation studies of radioactive proteins synthesized in vitro by yolk sac explants showed that yolk sac DBP, in contrast to alpha-fetoprotein, is not synthesized in situ by yolk sac. This result, combined with the location of DBP at the apex of the endodermal cells which face the uterus, strongly suggests that yolk sac DBP is of maternal origin. The concomitant presence in the endodermal cells of this DBP, of the 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D receptor, and of the system hydroxylating vitamin D metabolites in position 24, certainly has considerable physiological significance.