The effect of prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) on the postnatal development of male and female genital tract function was studied. The placental transfer or radiolabeled (3H or 14C) DES was studied in pregnant mice. DES-associated radioactivity in the fetal plasma approximated that in maternal plasma 1/2 hr after intravenous administration of [3H]DES; 3H activity corresponding to DES in the fetal genital tract was about threefold higher. The decrease in reproductive capacity of female offspring from mice treated with DES during gestation was dose-related; a low incidence (10% or less) of cancer of the vagina, cervix, and/or uterus was also observed in these mice. Male offspring exposed prenatally to the highest dose (100 microng/kg) of DES in this study also had lower reproductive capacities. Lesions in the genital tract of these mice included epididymal cysts, inflammation, cryptorchidism, and nodular masses in the seminal vesicles and/or prostate gland. Such lesions and sterility were not observed at the lower DES doses. Histological studies with neonatal mice raise the possibility that Müllerian duct tissue may represent a site for the transplacental toxicity of DES in both the male and female fetus.