Experiments were undertaken to define the role of gonadotropins in the release of norepinephrine and the relationship with beta-receptors of the ovary. Rat ovaries were removed at different stages of the estrous cycle and incubated in [3H]norepinephrine. Subsequently, ovaries were electrically stimulated and the release of [3H]norepinephrine was recorded. There were no changes in the norepinephrine content during the estrous cycle. The ovary exhibited cyclical variation in norepinephrine-induced release during the estrous cycle. The lowest release of norepinephrine was found during diestrus; there was an increase during proestrus and estrus followed by a decline during metestrus. The release of norepinephrine changed in the opposite way to the beta-receptor number, suggesting a process involving down-regulation between norepinephrine release and beta-receptors of the ovary. Norepinephrine released from the ovary was locally regulated by gonadotropins. The presence of FSH in the superfusion medium stimulated the norepinephrine-induced release from the ovaries of rats in diestrus (by 20%) and estrus (by 40%), but no effect was found during proestrus. In addition, the presence of hCG stimulated (by 40%) norepinephrine-induced release during proestrus, but no changes were apparent during the other stages of the estrous cycle. These results suggest that the local action of gonadotropins on nerve terminals of the ovary might be one of the factors governing the changes in norepinephrine release through the estrous cycle. The changes in the norepinephrine released to the synaptic cleft might exert down-regulation on the beta-adrenergic receptor content of the ovary and in this way control the ovarian steroid secretory activity.