Kisspeptins, the products of KiSS-1 gene, and their receptor, GPR54, have recently emerged as essential gatekeepers of reproduction, mainly through regulation of GnRH secretion at the hypothalamus. However, the profound hypogonadotropism linked to GPR54 inactivation is likely to mask additional functions of this system at other levels of the gonadal axis, in which expression of KiSS-1 and GPR54 has been preliminarily reported. We describe herein the expression of KiSS-1 gene and kisspeptin immunoreactivity (IR) in rat ovary and evaluate its developmental and hormonal regulation. KiSS-1 and GPR54 mRNAs were persistently detected in adult ovary along estrous cycle. Yet, contrary to GPR54, ovarian KiSS-1 levels fluctuated in a cyclic-dependent manner, with a robust increase in the afternoon of proestrus, i.e. preceding ovulation. In addition, kisspeptin-IR was observed in rat ovary, with strong signals in theca layers of growing follicles, corpora lutea, and interstitial gland, compartments in which modest GPR54-IR was also detected. Interestingly, the rise in ovarian KiSS-1 mRNA at proestrus was prevented by blockade of preovulatory gonadotropin surge and restored by replacement with human chorionic gonadotropin as superagonist of LH. In addition, immature ovaries showed low to negligible levels of KiSS-1 mRNA, which were significantly enhanced by gonadotropin priming. In summary, we present novel evidence for the developmental and hormonally regulated expression of the KiSS-1 gene, and the presence of kisspeptin-IR, in rat ovary. The ability of the LH surge to timely induce ovarian expression of KiSS-1 at the preovulatory period strongly suggests a previously unsuspected role of locally produced kisspeptin in the control of ovulation.