Transforming growth factor-beta superfamily regulates many aspects of reproduction in the female. We identified a novel member of this family, growth-differentiation factor 8 (GDF-8) in the 72 h post coital uterine fluid of the golden hamster by proteomic techniques. Uterine GDF-8 mRNA decreased as pregnancy progressed while its active protein peaked at 72 h post coitus (hpc) and thereafter stayed at a lower level. At 72 hpc, the GDF-8 transcript was localized to the endometrial epithelium while its protein accumulated in the stroma. Exogenous GDF-8 slowed down proliferation of primary cultures of uterine smooth muscle cells (SMC) and endometrial epithelial cells (EEC). In addition, GDF-8 attenuated the release of LIF (leukaemia inhibiting factor) by EEC. As for the embryo in culture, GDF-8 promoted proliferation of the trophotoderm (TM) and hatching but discouraged attachment. Our study suggests that GDF-8 could regulate the behavior of preimplantation embryos and fine-tune the physiology of uterine environment during pregnancy. Copyright © 2009 Wong et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.