The activation function-1 (AF-1) domain of the estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) in stromal cells has been shown to be required for epithelial responses to estrogen in the mouse uterus. To investigate the role of the stroma in estrogenic responses of human uterine epithelium (hUtE), human/mouse chimeric uteri composed of human epithelium and mouse stroma were prepared as tissue recombinants (TR) that were grown in vivo under the renal capsule of female nude mouse hosts. In association with mouse uterine stroma (mUtS), hUtE formed normal glands surrounded by mouse endometrial stroma and the human epithelium influenced the differentiation of stroma into myometrium, such that a histologically normal appearing uterine tissue was formed. The hUtE showed a similar proliferative response and increase in progesterone receptors (PR) in response to 17beta-estradiol (E2) in association with either human or mUtS, as TRs. However, under identical endocrine and micro-environmental conditions, hUtE required 5-7 days exposure to E2 rather than 1 day, as shown for mouse uterine epithelium, to obtain a maximal proliferative response. Moreover, this extended length of E2 exposure inhibited mouse epithelial proliferation in the presence of mouse stroma. In addition, unlike the mouse epithelium, which does not proliferate or show regulation of PR expression in response to E2 in association with uterine stroma derived from mice that are null for the AF-1 domain of ERalpha, hUtE proliferates and PR are up-regulated in response to E2 in association genetically identical ERalpha knock-out mouse stromal cells. These results clearly demonstrate fundamental differences between mouse and human uterine epithelia with respect to the mechanisms that regulate estrogen-induced proliferation and expression of PR. Moreover, we show that genetically engineered mouse models could potentially aid in dissecting molecular pathways of stromal epithelial interactions in the human uterus.