Pre-eclampsia is a disorder of unknown aetiology peculiar to human pregnancy. A well-described pathological feature being shallow trophoblast invasion into the spiral arteries during placenta development. Epidemiological studies have revealed an increased risk in pregnancies of primipaternity, and an association with the maternal-fetal HLA-DR relationship, both suggesting the involvement of an immunological component. We were therefore interested in the distribution of HLA-DR expressing myeloid cells in the decidua of healthy and pre-eclamptic placentae. We have studied the monocytes in maternal and fetal peripheral blood as well as in the placenta and identified the cluster of differentiation (CD) 14(+)myeloid cells in the basal plate as mannose receptor (ManR) positive tissue macrophages. In a comparison between peripheral blood monocytes from healthy pregnant and pre-eclamptic women we found no significant difference in the subpopulation size of CD14(+)/CD16(+)monocytes. The number and location of macrophages in the placental villi was similar. However, while the basal plate of the normal decidua contained numerous CD14(+), HLA-DR(bright), ManR(+)tissue macrophages, this compartment was virtually void of these phagocytic cells in the pre-eclamptic placenta. This novel finding suggests that in pre-eclampsia not only the migration of endovascular cytotrophoblasts is disturbed, but that also maternal macrophage migration is affected.