Blood samples collected from 29 women (aged between 19 and 35 years) during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (between days 18 and 23 of the cycle) showed that deficiency in thyroid hormone level is related to a decrease in progesterone (P4) secretion. To observe the effect of thyroid hormone on human ovarian luteal cells, 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine (T3; 125 ng/ml) was added to luteal cells in vitro. T3 significantly stimulated progesterone release (P < 0.01) from luteal cells and this could be blocked by cycloheximide, indicating a protein mediator for the T3 effect. The T3 stimulatory effect was inhibited by anti-T3 antibody suggesting specificity of T3 action. Addition of T3 caused a more than threefold increase in cellular protein synthesis which was inhibited by cycloheximide. Preparation of partially purified thyroid hormone-induced factor (TIF) (from peak II of Sephadex G 100 chromatography of T3-incubated cells), and its addition to luteal cell incubations caused a significant increase in P4 release (P < 0.05). Incubation with trypsin or treatment with heat destroyed the stimulatory effect of TIF on P4 release, indicating the proteinaceous nature of TIF. Purified thyroid hormone-induced protein. (TIP) from rat granulosa cells and fish ovarian follicles greatly stimulated P4 release from human luteal cells. These results suggest that T3 stimulation of P4 release from human luteal cells is not direct, but is mediated through a putative protein factor, which appears to be a protein conserved through evolution as far as its biological activity is concerned.