Interactions between germ cells and surrounding somatic cells are central to ovarian development as well as later function. Disruption of these interactions arising from abnormalities in either cell type can lead to premature ovarian failure (POF). The forkhead transcription factor FOXL2 is a candidate POF factor, and mutations in the FOXL2 gene are associated with syndromic and non-syndromic ovarian failure. Foxl2-deficient mice display major defects in primordial follicle activation with consequent follicle loss, and earlier roles in gonadal development and sex determination have also been suggested. However, despite its importance no data presently exist on its expression in the developing human ovary. Expression of FOXL2 mRNA was demonstrated in the human fetal ovary between 8 and 19 weeks gestation, thus from soon after sex determination to primordial follicle development. Expression in the ovary was higher after 14 weeks than at earlier gestation weeks and was very low in the fetal testis at all ages examined. Immunolocalization revealed FOXL2 expression to be confined to somatic cells, both adjacent to germ cells and those located in the developing ovarian stroma. These cells are the site of action of oocyte-derived activin signalling, but in vitro treatment of human fetal ovaries with activin failed to reveal any regulation of FOXL2 transcription by this pathway. In summary, the expression of FOXL2 in somatic cells of the developing human ovary before and during follicle formation supports a conserved and continuing role for this factor in somatic/germ cell interactions from the earliest stages of human ovarian development.