The existence of a circadian rhythm in the sensitivity of the hypothalamus of the laying hen to stimulation by progesterone was investigated by injecting 0·5 mg progesterone subcutaneously during the proposed period of maximum insensitivity. Following this treatment increases in plasma concentrations of both LH and progesterone were observed which were comparable to the spontaneous preovulatory rises in the plasma levels of the hormones.
The ability of either progesterone or luteinizing hormone releasing hormone (LH-RH) to induce premature ovulation varied according to the stage of follicular development. Neither hormone was more than 28% effective when injected within 6·5 h of the previous ovulation, whereas both hormones were 100% effective approximately 27 h after the terminal ovulation of a clutch sequence. Failure to ovulate in response to LH-RH given 6·5 h after ovulation was associated with a lack of progesterone secretion.
Both LH and progesterone were secreted when ovulation was induced by injections of either LH-RH or progesterone, and LH was secreted in response to progesterone given 6·5 h after ovulation. These results demonstrate that progesterone stimulates the secretion of LH and LH stimulates the secretion of progesterone. The precise physiological role of these two hormones, however, was not established.