We have previously shown that administration of antiprogestin (AP) type II RU486 to ovariectomized (OVX) rats on the morning of pro-oestrus decreases the magnitude of preovulatory gonadotrophin surge. This suggests that the effect of RU486 on LHRH-dependent gonadotrophin release may be independent of its ability to block progesterone actions. The aim of the present research was to study the possible site of RU486 action and to determine whether the gonadotrophin suppressive effect of APs RU486 and ZK299 is dependent on the oestrogen background. Intact or OVX rats in the morning of pro-oestrus were injected s.c. with 4 mg of RU486 or ZK299 (AP type I) at 0900 h on pro-oestrus. At 1830 h, serum concentration of FSH and LH and median eminence (ME) content of LHRH were determined. In the second experiment, the effect of RU486 and ZK299 on pituitary responsiveness to LHRH (100 ng, i.p.) and ME content of LHRH at 1830 h pentobarbital-blocked intact or OVX rats was evaluated. In the last study, the anterior pituitary release of FSH and LH from pro-oestrus or metoestrus donors incubated with or without LHRH (1, 10 or 100 nM) in the presence or absence of APs (20 nM) was evaluated. Both APs reduced serum FSH and LH levels at 1830 h on pro-oestrus in intact and OVX rats. The suppressive effect on gonadotrophin release brought about by AP treatment was also evidenced in PB-blocked intact and OVX rats. This suggested that the inhibitory effect of APs occurred, at least in part, at pituitary level. Furthermore, in the absence of the natural ligand, APs significantly reduced basal and LHRH-stimulated FSH and LH release from pro-oestrous but not from metoestrus pituitaries. In conclusion, these experiments have shown, both 'in vivo' and 'in vitro', that APs RU486 and ZK299 have suppressive effects at pituitary level on basal and LHRH-stimulated FSH and LH secretion, regardless of their antiprogestagenic activity, in pro-oestrus but not in metoestrus.