The effects of prolonged infusions of prolactin (PRL) into the third ventricle of the brain of cycling ewes on the secretory activity of hypothalamic GnRH neurons and pituitary LH cells in the pars distalis during the proestrous day were studied. Mature Blackhead ewes were infused with vehicle (control, n=5) or with prolactin (200 mug/day, n=5) during 4 consecutive days prior to the next spontaneous ovulation. The dose of PRL was infused each day in 4 series of 50 mug/100 mul/h at 30-min. intervals, from 8.30 to 14.00 h. The animals were slaughtered on the 16th (proestrous) day of the estrous cycle immediately after the last infusion and their brains were fixed in situ. Plasma samples were collected for 6 h at 10 min. intervals, on days 12 (before the infusions) and 16 of the cycle. The distribution pattern, number and morphology of GnRH neurons in vehicle- and PRL-infused ewes were found to be similar and typical for the proestrous phase of the cycle. The immunoreactive (ir) GnRH stores in the median eminence were high and similar in both groups. There were no differences between control and PRL-treated ewes in the number or features of irLH cells. The area fraction and optical density for irLH cells and mRNA LHbeta-expressing cells did not differ between control and experimental groups. Irrespective of the kind of infusion, changes in LH secretion during the estrous cycle were similar in control and PRL-infused ewes. Mean plasma LH concentrations were higher (p<0.001) on day 16 compared to day 12 of the cycle. There were no differences in plasma LH concentrations or in the parameters of pulsatile LH secretion between groups. In conclusion, repeated, several-hour-long infusions of PRL into the CNS prior to the next spontaneous ovulation in ewes has no direct effect on the secretory activity of GnRH neurons, and/or the synthesis, accumulation, or tonic release of LH from the pituitary gonadotrophs.