Abstract The aim of this study was to characterize the expression of a novel glucose transporter protein GLUT12 in human placenta. GLUT12 mRNA expression was identified by RT–PCR in extracts from five normal term placentae and in extracts from cultured cells of the JAR, JEG-3 and HTR-8Svneo cell lines. In further studies, paraffin sections of first trimester tissue from chorionic villus sampling and term tissue obtained after delivery were analysed by immunohistology with a GLUT12 specific polyclonal antibody. GLUT12 immunoreactivity was expressed predominantly in the syncytiotrophoblast and in extra-villous trophoblast cells in first trimester tissues at 10, 11 and 12 weeks' gestation. In term tissue, however, GLUT12 staining was not detected in syncytiotrophoblast and was found predominantly in villous vascular smooth muscle cells and villous stromal cells. These results suggest that there is a dynamic spatial and temporal expression pattern for the novel glucose transporter GLUT12 in human placenta.