Analysis of ovine conceptus RNA by slot blotting, Northern analysis and nested polymerase chain reaction failed to detect oxytocin–neurophysin prohormone mRNA. Probes used hybridized with both the 3' end of the prohormone mRNA and the oxytocin-coding sequence. Northern analysis of bovine and porcine conceptus RNA was also negative, and polymerase chain reaction demonstrated oxytocin–neurophysin mRNA in ovine corpus luteum, but not in human corpus luteum or decidua, or in ovine endometrium. Infusion of oxytocin into the uterine lumen in cyclic ewes between days 9 and 19 or 20 after oestrus failed to prolong the luteal phase of the cycle and had no effect on endometrial oxytocin receptor concentrations or uterine prostaglandin F secretion. Oxytocin administered systematically prevented luteolysis and reduced uterine prostaglandin F secretion. Taken together, these data suggest that blastocyst-derived oxytocin is unlikely to contribute to corpus luteum maintenance in early pregnancy. They are inconsistent with a previous report that the ovine blastocyst synthesizes and secretes oxytocin.