We previously demonstrated that oxytocin stimulates LH release from rat pituitary cells in vitro and advances follicular development and ovulation in mice in vivo. This study reports an investigation of rat LH levels following in-vivo administration of oxytocin. Injection of oxytocin (10 mIU/g, i.p.) to rats at 07.00, 08.00 and 09.00 h of pro-oestrus or at 09.00, 10.00 and 11.00 h of pro-oestrus advanced the onset of the LH surge (P<0.005) and attainment of peak concentrations of LH (P<0.02) in peripheral blood. On the other hand, the descending phase of the LH surge and the surge amplitude were not altered by oxytocin. Treatment at 05.00, 06.00 and 07.00 h of pro-oestrus or at 11.00, 12.00 and 13.00 h of pro-oestrus had no effect on the LH profile. A higher oxytocin dose (20 mIU/g) inhibited LH release when treatment was begun at 05.00, 07.00 or 09.00 h of pro-oestrus. A lower dose (5 mIU/g) was ineffective in altering LH concentrations. In addition, injections of oxytocin (10 mIU/g) at oestrus, metoestrus or dioestrus had no effect on the release of LH. Thus the efficacy of oxytocin in altering concentrations of LH was dose dependent and also critically affected by the day of the oestrous cycle and the time of pro-oestrus. Removal of endogenous oxytocin activity by the use of an oxytocin receptor antagonist abolished the pro-oestrous LH surge, indicating that oxytocin is a vital physiological component of the LH-releasing mechanism in rats. The study provides unequivocal evidence that oxytocin induces LH release in vivo, but the manifestation of oxytocin activity is dependent upon conditions of exposure.