Previous studies have demonstrated that cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), a cAMP-mediated Cl(-)channel found in most epithelia including reproductive tract, could be regulated by various culture conditions. The present study further investigated the effect of phenol red, a pH indicator widely used in growth medium, and steroid hormones, present in the supplement fetal bovine serum (FBS), on primary cultured endometrial epithelial cells by monitoring ion channel activities using the short-circuit current technique. When compared to the results obtained with normal medium supplemented with regular FBS, the forskolin-stimulated I(SC), presumably mediated by CFTR, obtained in phenol red-free medium was significantly reduced, from 16.95+/-1.53 microA/cm(2)(control) to 9.72+/-0.89 microA/cm(2)(medium without phenol red, P< 0.05). The forskolin-activated I(SC)was further attenuated to 5.29+/-0.46 microA/cm(2)in the phenol red-free medium when supplemented with charcoal/ dextran-treated FBS where steroid hormones were removed. Our data suggest that phenol red and steroid hormones present in culture medium and FBS supplement, respectively, may somehow upregulate CFTR expression in vitro. Our study demonstrates the need for carefully choosing the culture media and supplements due to the effect of steroid hormones.