Human idiopathic foetal growth restriction (FGR) is frequently associated with placental insufficiency. In our previous studies, we have reported the isolation and characterisation of the homeobox gene Distal-less 3 (DLX3) in the human placenta. In this study, we have investigated the level of DLX3 expression in idiopathic FGR-affected placentae and determined its functional role in villous trophoblast differentiation. FGR-affected placentae (n=25) were collected based on well-defined clinical criteria and matched for gestation with control uncomplicated pregnancies (n=25). Real-time polymerase chain reaction and immunoblotting showed increased DLX3 mRNA and protein expression in FGR-affected placentae compared with gestation-matched controls. Qualitative immunohistochemistry revealed DLX3 localisation in the syncytiotrophoblast, cytotrophoblasts and endothelial cells surrounding the foetal capillaries in both FGR-affected and control placentae. Down-regulation of DLX3 in primary villous trophoblast cells and a trophoblastderived cell line showed decreased expression of differentiation markers, 3βHSD, βhCG and syncytin. Therefore, we conclude that increased DLX3 expression in FGR may contribute to trophoblast dysfunction observed in FGR.