During human pregnancy, parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) and parathyroid hormone (PTH)/PTHrP receptor are produced by the uterus, placenta, fetal membranes (amnion and chorion) and developing fetus. PTHrP alternative 3' mRNA splicing results in transcripts which encode three PTHrP isoforms and have been identified in amnion. Uteroplacental PTHrP expression is greatest in amnion and increases dramatically during late pregnancy. The aims of this study were to determine PTH/PTHrP receptor mRNA expression at preterm and term gestations and to determine 3' alternative splicing patterns in placenta, amnion and choriodecidua at preterm and term gestations. Using semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, PTHrP and PTH/PTHrP receptor transcripts were identified in preterm (n=5) and term (n=7) gestational tissues. PTH/PTHrP receptor mRNA expression did not differ between tissue types or change with advancing gestation. In contrast, PTHrP expression in the same tissues increased with advancing gestation and was significantly greater in amnion than in placenta and choriodecidua. Thus PTHrP, although produced predominantly in amnion, may act in amnion and other tissues including placenta, choriodecidua and myometrium. In amnion over placenta, transcripts encoding PTHrP 1-139 and 1-173 were detected in some preterm and all term samples and those encoding PTHrP 1-141 were detected in all samples. Similar results were obtained for reflected amnion. In placenta and choriodecidua, PTHrP 1-139 and 1-173 transcripts were undetectable or of low abundance. PTHrP 1-141 transcripts were detected in some placenta and choriodecidua samples. In summary, transcripts encoding PTHrP 1-141 appeared to be more abundantly expressed than those encoding PTHrP 1-139 or 1-173. However, the up-regulation of PTHrP expression in amnion at term may involve each of the alternative 3' mRNA splicing pathways since transcripts for each isoform appeared to be more consistently expressed at term.