The mRNA expression patterns of activin A and follistatin in the uterus and embryo, the mRNA expression of the activin receptor II in the embryo, and the localization in the uterus of the immunoreactive activin A and the receptor II proteins in the uterus were examined at gestation days 7-12 after ovulation in pig. Activin was located predominantly at the mesometrial side of the uterus during all stages of pregnancy studied. Follistatin mRNA was absent in the uterus during these stages, suggesting that activin of uterine origin is not inhibited by intra-uterine follistatin. The receptor was localized throughout the glandular and luminal epithelium of the uterus. In the embryo, activin was expressed predominantly in the epiblast before unfolding, but after unfolding of the epiblast activin expression shifted to the trophoblast. The expression pattern of follistatin mRNA was contrarily to that of activin, i.e., before unfolding predominantly in the trophoblast (days 8-9), and shifted to the epiblast at day 10. During streak stages, follistatin was detected in the node and primitive streak. Activin receptor II mRNA was first detected at day 8 in the embryoblast. At day 11, it was expressed in trophoblast cells near the epiblast, and in the first ingressing mesoderm cells. During the streak stages, it was expressed predominantly in the trophoblast. The presence of activin and its receptor in uterine epithelium and early embryonic tissues indicate that both embryonic and uterine activin are involved in intra-uterine processes, such as attachment and early embryonic development.