The corpus luteum is essential for the maintenance of early pregnancy in women. Angiogenesis may be one factor involved in luteal rescue. The aim of this study was to determine the changes in endothelial cell proliferation throughout the luteal phase and in human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG)-simulated early pregnancy. Human corpora lutea obtained throughout the luteal phase and in simulated early pregnancy were immunostained with antibodies for endothelial and proliferating cells. Number and distribution of endothelial and proliferating cells were examined. Endothelial cells were least abundant in the early luteal phase, increasing in the mid-luteal phase (P < 0.03). Endothelial numbers did not differ significantly between the late and the rescued corpora lutea. Endothelial cell proliferation was greatest in the early luteal phase and continued at a lower level during later stages. Simulated early pregnancy resulted in no change in endothelial cell proliferation. These results showed that a high degree of endothelial cell proliferation is associated with formation of the human corpus luteum. Unchanging levels of proliferation following HCG treatment (for 5-8 days from day 12 to day 16 post-ovulation, at 125 IU to 16,000 IU, following a daily doubling of dose) suggest that alternative processes are involved during luteal rescue.