Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) has been found to be widely expressed in many cell types throughout the body and appears to play several physiologic roles. We sought to determine the expression and cellular distribution of MIF in human fetal (HFA) and adult (HAA) adrenals. A single band of approximately 0.8 kb was revealed by northern blot hybridization using cDNA probes for MIF in total RNA extracts of both HFA and HAA tissues. Immunohistochemical analysis showed strong immunostaining for MIF in the broad fetal zone of the HFA and in both the zona glomerulosa and zona reticularis of HAA. The cells of the zona fasciculata of the HAA and of the neocortex of the HFA were only minimally, if at all, immunopositive for MIF and medullary elements were consistently negative for MIF. These results are indicative of local production of MIF in adrenocortical cells during intrauterine development and also in adulthood. The role of MIF in cortical cells of the human adrenal gland remains to be determined.