Inhibin is a gonadal glycoprotein hormone that regulates the production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) by the anterior pituitary gland and exhibits intragonadal actions as well. The present study shows that inhibin-like immunoreactivity (inhibin-LI) is present in cells of the cytotrophoblast layer of human placenta at term and in primary cultures of human trophoblasts. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) stimulated secretion of inhibin-LI from these cultured placental cells. This effect was mimicked by 8-bromo-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (8-bromo-cAMP), forskolin, and cholera toxin, suggesting that the mechanism of hCG induction of placental inhibin-LI secretion is cAMP-dependent. Incubation with an antiserum that binds the alpha-subunit of human inhibin increased the secretion of hCG and gonadotropin-releasing hormone-like immunoreactivity (GnRH-LI) from trophoblast cells in culture, suggesting a local tonic inhibitory action of endogenous inhibin on hCG and GnRH-LI release. The action of inhibin on hCG secretion may partially require the presence of placental GnRH, as suggested by evidence that a synthetic GnRH antagonist partially reverses the hCG increase induced by inhibin immunoneutralization. Results suggest paracrine roles for both inhibin and GnRH in the regulation of placental hCG production.