Exerting a broad range of biological effects in various tissues, activins are homo- or heterodimers of activin/inhibin β-subunits (βA, βB, βC, and βE in humans). Although activins A (βAβA), B (βBβB), AB (βAβB), and AC (βAβC) have been demonstrated in the female reproductive system, little is known about their individual functions in the ovary. To investigate the biological roles and activities of activins in regulating steroidogenesis in human granulosa cells. Human granulosa-lutein cells obtained from 32 patients undergoing in vitro fertilization were used to investigate the effects of activin A, B, AB, and AC on the expression of steroidogenic enzymes and steroid production. An academic research center. mRNA and protein levels were examined by reverse transcription quantitative real-time PCR and Western blot analysis, respectively. The production of estradiol and progesterone was measured by enzyme immunoassay. P450 aromatase, FSH receptor, and estradiol levels were increased, whereas steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), LH receptor, and progesterone levels were decreased after treatment with activin A, B, and AB, but not activin AC. FSH or LH induced the production of aromatase/estradiol and StAR/progesterone; however, pretreatment with activin A, B, or AB enhanced the effects of gonadotropins on aromatase/estradiol, but suppressed their effects on StAR/progesterone. Treatment with activin A, B, or AB induced the phosphorylation of SMA- and MAD-related proteins (SMAD2 and 3), whereas activin AC had no such effects. Furthermore, co-culture of activin AC (1-100 ng/mL) with activin A (25 ng/mL) did not alter the effects of activin A on P450 aromatase or StAR mRNA levels. Activin A, B, and AB have similar effects on steroidogenesis in human granulosa cells. In contrast, activin AC is not biologically active and does not act as a competitive antagonist.