We studied tissue sections of freshly obtained full-term and premature human umbilical cords using polyclonal antibody to endothelin and immunocytochemistry. Endothelin immunoreactivity was detected in the cytoplasm of epithelial cells and primitive fibroblasts, but not in the endothelial cells of both full-term and premature umbilical cords. Immunoelectron microscopy using indirect immunogold staining technique localized endothelin immunoreactivity to the cytoplasm of the epithelial cells and fibroblasts but not confined to any particular structures. No endothelin immunoreactivity was detected in the nucleus or on the cell membrane. Pre-absorption tests with synthetic endothelin-1, -2, and -3 independently established that the immunoreactivity represented endothelin-1 and -2, but not -3. The presence of endothelin-1 and -2-like immunoreactive materials in epithelial cells and fibroblasts of human umbilical cord suggests a role of endothelin in parturition.