The relationship between maternal hormones and factors secreted by the implanting embryo is still controversial. We have analysed the in-vitro effect of oestradiol and human embryo-derived histamine-releasing factor (EHRF) on histamine release from rat uterine mast cells. Rat uterine mast cells which were preincubated with oestradiol and then challenged with human EHRF gave histamine release values two- to threefold higher than those without preincubation. The enhancement observed was time- and temperature-dependent. A similar enhancement was obtained with human sensitized basophils but not with rat peritoneal mast cells. Oestradiol, used as a direct challenge, did not induce any histamine release from either rat uterine or peritoneal mast cells, or from human sensitized basophils. Oestradiol preincubation also enhanced the histamine release induced by anti-IgE but did not enhance the histamine release induced by substance P or compound 48/80, two secretagogues that are not mediated by IgE. Moreover, uterine fragments derived from rats at various oestrus phases, with different amounts of endogenous oestrogen, were challenged in vitro with EHRF. The release of histamine by mast cells was higher at the proestrus and preimplantation phases than at dioestrus. All these findings suggest that the interaction of oestradiol with rat uterine mast cells was capable of enhancing in vitro the histamine releasing effect of EHRF.