Résumé : This study investigates whether albumin, a major plasma protein in direct contact with the trophoblast in vivo, can modulate human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) and human placental lactogen (HPL) releases from placental explants. Incubating explants with a near physiological, i.e. 5%, concentration of human or bovine albumin during 30 min increased HCG and HPL release by at least 150%. This albumin effect was not mediated by any difference in hormone adsorption onto glass surfaces. In contrast to the sustained stimulation of hormone releases elicited by the addition of 10 mmol/l extracellular calcium, the albumin-mediated secretory responses were transient. However, the albumin- and calcium-stimulatory effects were abolished at 4 degrees C, depressed by 0.36 mmol/l cycloheximide or 1 mmol/l colchicine and potentiated by 40 micromol/l cytochalasin B. Moreover, the stimulatory effect of albumin on the hormone releases was not modified in the absence of Ca(2+) or in the presence of 1 or 10 mmol/l Ca(2+) in the extracellular milieu. These data suggest that albumin is involved, at physiological concentration, in the secretion of HCG and HPL by human placenta. The cellular mechanism(s) underlying the albumin-mediated secretory responses may be partly different from those involved during the calcium-mediated stimulation.