Several studies point to the placenta as the primary cause of pre-eclampsia. Our objective was to identify placental genes that may contribute to the development of pre-eclampsia. RNA was purified from tissue biopsies from eleven pre-eclamptic placentas and eighteen normal controls. Messenger RNA expression from pooled samples was analysed by microarrays. Verification of the expression of selected genes was performed using real-time PCR. A surprisingly low number of genes (21 out of 15,000) were identified as differentially expressed. Among these were genes not previously associated with pre-eclampsia as bradykinin B1 receptor and a 14-3-3 protein, but also genes that have already been connected with pre-eclampsia, for example, inhibin beta A subunit and leptin. A low number of genes were repeatedly identified as differentially expressed, because they may represent the endpoint of a cascade of events effectuated throughout gestation. They were associated with transcriptional regulation and vasoregulative pathways, along with a number of hypothetical proteins and gene sequences with unknown functions.